But seriously, there was no punchline. That's just what happened, they went to dinner. And it was good.
On Sunday, the NY Daily News reported that a group of Jewish and Muslim clergymen held an interfaith summit in Manhattan. I was excited to read this article because I think it's something our religious leaders need to do more: Talk.
When I was a Senior at NYU, our community faced an unfortunate aggressive backlash against Muslims following the September 11th attacks. As Vice-President of the Newman Club, our campus Catholic Club, I reached out to the Islamic Center and the Jewish Center and hosted an Interfaith dinner and talk. Almost 200 people showed up to our short-notice gathering and it remains one of the most incredible experiences of my life. We followed up with a pretty amazing Interfaith panel discussion in the Spring.
We received the NYU President's Service Award for holding the interfaith sessions and for helping to ease tensions in our community. I'm not sure if the dialogue continued after we graduated. But, I feel that now, as much as ever, we need to continue to reach out and learn about one another.
The article quotes the clergymen as stating that they learned from one another:
"We exchanged our cards. We exchanged our theology, our thinking, our etiquette," said Malik Sakhawat Hussain, the imam of the Al-Mahdi mosque in Coney Island, Brooklyn. "And we found we have much more in common than we thought."
"You say, 'Shalom,' we say, 'Salaam,'" he told one rabbi. "You say, 'Amen,' we say, 'Amin.'"
I also loved this story shared by Syed Zaheer-ul Hassan, an Imam from Trumbull, Connecticut:
He shared an Islamic legend about the great ancestor of both faiths, the man the Jews call Abraham and Muslims call Ibrahim.
"Ibrahim would never eat alone," Hassan told the group. "He would only eat when he had guests."
Once, three guests dined with Ibrahim and wanted to pay for the meal. Ibrahim said there was no charge, but the guests insisted. "Don't give me any money," said Ibrahim, "but accept the ideology of one God."
That was too much of a price for the visitors. They refused. "Then don't accept," Ibrahim said, "just bow your heads to the ground."
The imam continued, "As they bowed, Ibrahim looked to the heavens and said, 'Okay, God. You take it from here.'"
He then turned to the assembled rabbis and imams and said, "We've done our duty. God, we now need your help."