Coming off of Tisha B’Av, one of the solemn lessons that you take away from it is that sinat chinam or “baseless hatred” is one of the reasons that tragedy has befallen upon the Jewish people. However the emphasis on this has always been baseless hatred between Jews; and not so much against mankind in general. But this year I began to wonder…why draw the demarcation line outside of our own people?
This time also marks the season of Ramadan, the holiest month of the year in Islam. While we Jews have fast days (that seem to last forever), Muslims fast for the entire month – from dawn until dusk. So while we Jews fasted, I couldn’t help but have my thoughts drawn to Muslims. I saw the news about olympian Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani, and I really hope that International Olympic Committee will let her compete with the hijab. Judaism also has laws regarding modesty, and I am always ready to defend the rights of any woman who wishes to dress modestly, in spite of her profession or hobbies.
I was reading a bit about Sephardic Jewry and I could not help but notice how they seemed to echo a bit more of Muslim culture than Ashkenazi Jews do. Can I go out on a limb here and say that the Sephardim have mirrored Islam’s general tolerance of religiosity while the Ashkenazim have embraced the more strict and exacting doctrines of Christianity. Now I don’t want to be misinterpreted here and have people think that I believe Judaism is a false doctrine…no it is the original form of monotheism. However let’s not kid ourselves and say that Jews have not been influenced by their non-Jewish neighbors.
My relationship with Islam is probably a bit more intimate than what most Jews have. My 1/2 sister’s mother is Muslim. I remember watching her tie up her headscarf and being amazed at all of the gorgeous Arabic calligraphy in her home. I also grew up listening to Black Muslims and reading about Malcolm X. But I also knew that outside of that, a Muslim could be of any race. When I was in college, I attended some seminars given by the Muslim Student Association on campus…where one set of guest speakers was an Arabic woman and her Caucasian husband. And while I saw early on that the theological basis of Islam was flawed, I could not help but to admire their level of acceptance in regards to race, background and lifestyle situations.
I wish that Judaism could be such a faith.
Lately the Jewish press has been writing stories about the Black Hebrew Israelites and “Black Jews“. Such features frustrate me, and I am not the only one, since they make these “us” vs. “them” comparisons within the Jewish community. Also, such features are very superficial, since on the surface, they tend to be curious and respectful. But the truth is that there are Black Jews who are active and present within the “White” Jewish community…but no one wants to talk about us because then, they will have to look in the mirror in order to confront the problem.
But ultimately, I am not bitter. I love all Jews in all persuasions…even though they do not love me back. Same with Muslims…or anyone for that matter. So many times I’ve had random Muslims call me or my people names and make crazy accusations about what I believe in and what I support (genocide, deception, sorcery, etc.). And only G-d knows how many times I’ve sat among Jews and have had them secretly ponder about what I was doing there…invading their space…and being on edge because they have an interloper in their midst.
There are no easy answers here. All I can do really is wish and hope — for the day were we can just respect and love each other. And not worry so much about our differences and how those differences threaten ourselves.