Hanukah and religious intolerance


Dear Imam Muhammad Shehata,

We at Germantown Jewish Centre were horrified to learn of the desecration of the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society this week.  Teenagers from our synagogue have been your guests many times to learn from you about Islam, we have hosted your teenagers at GJC, and Rabbi Zeff was privileged to participate with you in a session of sharing between religious leaders at the Islamic Society several years ago.  We have always appreciated the warm welcome and kindness that you have extended to us.  So we feel the pain of this attack on you very personally, and we want to express our solidarity with you and our outrage at those who would desecrate your sacred space.

As Jews, we are struck forcefully by the fact that this attack came during the festival of Hanukah.  Hanukah recalls a period of Jewish history over 2,000 years ago in which a non-Jewish authority sought to intimidate Jews and to induce them to abandon their faith and practices by, among other things, desecrating the Holy Temple in Jerusalem with pigs.  The successful struggle by the Jewish people to retain their religion and to reclaim and rededicate their holy place is what we remember when we light the candles of the Hanukah lamp.  On Hanukah, we celebrate the power of the light of understanding and freedom to banish the darkness of ignorance and bigotry, and we rededicate ourselves to spreading that light in our own time.

Sadly, the attack on the Islamic Society demonstrates that darkness and bigotry still permeate our world.  We want to assure you that we rededicate ourselves this Hanukah to working with you to spread the light of mutual respect among all religions and faiths and to deepening the ties between our communities.

With prayers for light and for peace,

Rabbi Adam Zeff and Rabbi Annie Lewis