Through all the crises in the Middle East over the past 15 years, a small group of Muslim and Jewish families on Long Island has been able to learn from each other, share what they believe and celebrate together. In our violent world, this is no small blessing. So it’s fitting that Muslim families are honoring Rabbi Jerome Davidson tonight for providing the spark that ignited this strong and lasting dialogue.

It began when Davidson, the leader of Temple Beth-El in Great Neck, attended a workshop on Jewish-Muslim dialogue. He asked Bobbie Rosenzweig, a temple official who had pioneered a dialogue with a black Baptist congregation, to explore one with Muslims. So she called the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury. That brought her to the mosque’s prime mover in this relationship over the years, Faroque Khan.

What followed was a family-to-family dialogue, held in homes, starting with honest discussions about the beliefs of each religion. It evolved from small groups to include the full congregations and to joint celebrations of the Jewish feast of Sukkot and the Muslim observance of Ramadan.

Despite global geopolitical turmoil that has put Jews and Muslims in confrontation, this local dialogue has survived and prospered because it is built on trust and friendship at the level of family. Now that Davidson is preparing to retire, it is heartwarming to see the Muslim community honoring him at a dinner tonight for taking that long-ago step that has built so many bridges.


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