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Moishe House Shavout Iftar

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F&BF Communications

24 / 05 / 18

On the 21st May Mamataj Begum (co chair of Faith and Belief Forum Youth Council) and I had the enormous pleasure of hosting a Shavuot Iftar in my home.

It is a bit of a once in a generation opportunity because the next time the two festivals are likely to coincide is about 30 years away.

I live in a Jewish community center called Moishe House, it’s part of a global movement with over a hundred houses in nearly 30 countries. Every house is different, for some Russian is the language for everything, others lead on to the beach. They all share the same model of residents living in the community centre putting on events to serve local young Jewish adults.

We do all kinds of things, from Friday night dinners and Pesach Seders to book clubs, film nights and gardening events.

One thing I am really passionate about is ensuring I and the Moishe House community have strong connections with our wider community that we live and work in. Hence taking this alignment of opportunities was too good to miss.

 My housemate Gidon Fineman set the space with an incredibly deep mindufness meditation which left the room ready for a special session of learning.

Mamataj explained what Ramadan is, what it remembers, what Muslims will be doing during this month of fasting, prayer and devotion. And importantly for an iftar, how people traditionally break the fast.

I then explained the four parts of Shavuot, the Megillah (story) of Ruth, the end of the counting of the Omer, the giving of the Torah to the assembled children of Israel, and the traditional eating of dairy products, particularly cheesecake!

Then we opened the room up to questions, about half the guests hadn’t heard much about Shavuot before and about half had lots of questions about Ramadan.

Probably my favourite question was, “what’s the most annoying thing you get asked during Ramadan?”
Not even water was the first answer, but it actually gave rise to a lot of sharing of personal struggles that are caused by people around them not knowing that a well intentioned question or remark can be really frustrating.

Another really interesting question came up around conversion in Judaism. Traditionally Judaism does not have a strong focus on conversion for a variety so why does Ruth gets
a whole Megillah read every year at one of the most important festivals. Ruth is someone not born into a Jewish family but chooses to accept the laws, burdens and responsibilities or Judaism.

An incredibly meaningful answer came from another of my housemates, Ben Heller, he explained that for him Judaism is at its most powerful and important when it is at its most inclusive. At Shavuot all the children of Israel are witness to revelation no matter what came before  that moment at the foot of Mt Sinai. At Pesach we are instructed to feed all that are hungry and at a Friday night dinner to welcome the Sabbath you will find anyone that wants a dinner at Moishe House.

It made me incredibly proud to see the house opened up beyond our obvious base of welcoming young Jewish people to welcoming people of other faiths and beliefs to share in the celebration of two festivals

The end of the fast was at 8.57 so that’s when we all shared in beginning the iftar with a date and some water. There was an absolute feast (iftar) of different foods significant to Jews and Muslims. There were four challot baked by Jews and Muslims the day before, cheesecakes which are traditional for Shavuot, lentil soup which I had been advised by the big iftar would be a good nutritious way to begin eating after a long day, lots of juicy fruit which my colleague Aqeelah recommend, pasta bake which is a Moishe House staple (no religious reason) loads of salads, cheese, nuts, cakes, chocolate, baklava, hummus and so much more that I have completely forgotten.

I’m looking forward to doing the same again in 30 years but also to more interfaith events at the house a little bit sooner.

On the 22nd June Moishe House and The Faith and Belief Forum will be hosting the Great Get Together Shabbat Dinner, it will be another weekend of inclusion and a great opportunity to meet new people.

To find out more and register your interest click here. 

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