A Muslim-Jewish interfaith dialogue took place Monday at the Central Queens Y, a Jewish organization. The sold-out event of about 125 people was planned before the outbreak of hostilities in Gaza.
First, no pre-event interviews were granted. Then no media were allowed at the event.
Some, like Rabbi Mayer Perelmutter of the Reform Temple of Forest Hills, didn’t want to speak to the press outside the event. “Yes, I was there,” Perelmutter said as he kept walking and talking on his cell phone.
But those who did speak described the event as “joyful,” “peaceful” and “beyond expectations.” There were no outbursts or yelling.
Jafar Hussaini said an Imam, a Muslim leader and a Turkish community leader, spoke about fasting during Ramadan. Ramadan is the month during which Mohammed received the Koran and Muslims try to do multiple good deeds, he said.
Hussaini learned how Jews fast during Yom Kippur for the same reason: to concentrate on the spiritual and not the material. He learned Jews experience multiple shorter fasts during the year. He said there were peaceful conversations among the participants long after the event ended.
It went “beyond expectations” and “I hope there are future events like this,” he added.
“A good and very pleasant evening, everybody seemed so open. I learned a lot. I’d like to learn more,” said Betty Zimmerman. “I didn’t know what it was going to be beforehand but it was beautiful.”
Zimmerman liked the video explaining the Muslim call of prayer and the Muslim representatives answering people’s questions.
A woman describing herself as a Christian from Kew Gardens said, “That’s how you build relationships” — People sitting together talking, “that’s how you build unity.”
Kosher food that was also Halal and permissible under Islamic law was served after the speeches. Many people were observed talking inside the Y a half hour after the 10 p.m. closing time. It appeared to be a professional crowd with men in suits, women fashionably dressed and some wearing hijabs or headscarves and men wearing yarmulkes.
People talked about the possibility of having Turkish music or other dialogues at the Y in the future.
Fadhel Al-Sahlani, a Shia Imam born in Iraq but who did not attend the event, is Imam at the Al-Khoei Islamic Center at 89-89 Van Wyck Expressway he believes dialogue is always good. “It’s a face of peace to better understand each other.”