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‘We are friends and we are neighbors’ — Utah’s Jewish, Muslim communities unite against antisemitism, Islamophobia

05/26/2021 04:29:48 PM

May26

Kaitlyn Bancroft

Battles in the Middle East and vandalism at a Salt Lake City synagogue prompt rabbis and imams to issue a joint plea for peace.

Rabbi Samuel Spector remembers when, in the summer of 2006, a gunman walked into the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.

Israel was at war with Lebanon, and the man shouted out his anger at Israel. He then shot six people, killing one.

Spector said one of the saddest outgrowths from that deadly encounter was a rise of Islamophobia in his community. Conversely, one of the most powerful occurrences came when a Muslim imam ventured to an area synagogue to condemn the attack.

Spector, who now leads Congregation Kol Ami in Salt Lake City, thought about that imam as he recently weighed how to promote solidarity between Utah’s Jews and Muslims in light of the recent escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza.

The tension hit closer to home when someone scratched a swastika onto the glass door the Chabad Lubavitch of Utah synagogue in Salt Lake City’s Sugar House neighborhood.

After the vandalism, Spector repeatedly heard from his congregants about what a painful, lonely time they were experiencing. His Muslim friends, he thought, must be feeling the same way.

So the rabbi reached out to Luna Banuri, executive director of the Utah Muslim Civic League, about creating a joint statement from Jewish and Muslim communities condemning the violence and expressing their solidarity with one another. 

The two then turned to all of their other contacts, Spector said, and were thrilled when “pretty much everybody” wanted to sign the statement.

The result: 23 Utah organizations — 10 Jewish, 13 Muslim — released a joint statement Tuesday expressing “horror and sadness” over the current violence in the Middle East and “resoundingly reject(ing)” any acts of violence or destruction toward Muslims, Jews or their places of gathering and worship.

The statement invites “all children of Abraham/Ibrahim” to join area Jews and Muslims in “praying for peace,” and asks communities to “extend a hand in love and friendship to one another.”

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Tue, October 26 2021 20 Cheshvan 5782