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Sharing Similarities and Celebrating Differences

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Until just a few weeks ago, I had visited a mosque only once in my life. Now, I’ve doubled that number.

Let me tell you about my first time, which was at Amal Aly’s wedding. I met Amal about 30 years ago, when she became an associate at the law firm in which I was a partner. If this were a rom-com and we ended up having a romantic relationship (spoiler alert: that was never a part of our friendship), you could say we met cute.

Amal and I shared a secretary. On the day that we really met – Amal had been at the firm only a few weeks and our previous meetings had been quite brief – I wasn’t eating because it was a minor Jewish fast day. I guess my hunger made me testier than usual, and my secretary murmured, after an irritable (on my part) exchange, “Oh, just my luck to work for two fasting attorneys.” I was momentarily perplexed, though I quickly realized it was Ramadan and (duh) Amal, a Muslim, was the other person fasting.

I immediately went to her office, said I just realized we were both fasting (abashedly explaining how I found out), and asked if she’d like to break her fast with me later that day. Although her fast ended a bit earlier than mine, she graciously agreed to wait. And so, over a meal of Kosher Delight Southern fried chicken and fries, an Orthodox Jew and his Muslim colleague broke bread, and their fasts, together.

We became good friends as well as colleagues, and as we swapped personal stories it became clear that from a cultural/sociological standpoint we had much in common. In college, Amal had Modern Orthodox (MO) roommates, so she felt comfortable when we would use Jewish terms to describe her Muslim family and community. For example, she agreed that she was MO while her father – with whom, she told me, she had discussed her Orthodox colleague – was black hat. As such, when she returned home to Brooklyn after finishing law school, he was opposed to her later decision to move into her own Manhattan........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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