In his translation of the Islamic Sufi poet, Rumi, Coleman Barks says, “Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make sense anymore.”
I am trying to find that place in my life in Spokane.
In Ethics of the Fathers 1:14, Rabbi Hillel said, “If I am not for me, who is for me; and if I am (only) for myself, what am I. And if not now, when?”
Now is the time to be for myself and to open my eyes to those around me. I say it like a mantra these days.
For over fifty years Jews and Muslims have lived side by side in Spokane, Washington. In the last couple of years both communities have invited their neighbors to events at the synagogue and Islamic center. Meet the Neighbors programming, Kosher Dinner, Friday Night Services and Prayers, Ramadan Dinner and Prayers. We are each learning and making space for the each other to see that we can't be only for ourselves.
Last year Jews and Muslims created a chapter of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom. Jews from the Reform Congregation Emanu-el, the Conservative Temple Beth Shalom and unaffiliated Jews joined with women from the all parts of the Muslim community. Each month we eat together and talk and get to know each other. Politics in the United States and in the Middle East are not something we discuss and yet for myself politics and the hate rhetoric in this country today are the reason I have joined a group meant to foster understanding and respect. What I see around me in the news has galvanized me, even compelled me to look outside myself and join communities that encourage peace and acceptance.
This May both communities are celebrating and learning about each others' approach to God. I recently got an email from the national founders of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, Sheryl Olitzky and Atiya Aftab.
"For Muslims, the month of Ramadan has begun—a time of fasting, prayer, charity, and contemplation. Our fasts during Ramadan are a means to strengthen our faith and work towards the betterment of our society. We wish our Muslim brothers and sisters, Ramadan Mubarak, to have a blessed Ramadan.
For Jews, we observe the holiday of Shavuot—an ancient harvest festival that also marked the revelation of Torah at Mt Sinai. It has been said that the entire Torah exists for one purpose, to establish justice. As we celebrate the giving of Torah, we recommit ourselves to the repair of the world. To our Jewish sisters and brothers, we send a greeting of Chag Sameach, to have a joyous festival."
The first synagogue in the state opened in Spokane in 1892, but the city's Jewish history began even before the little village of Spokane Falls existed. History Link put it this way: "In 1879, Indians told Simon Berg, the first known Jewish resident, that he was not the first "egg-eater" they had met. Apparently, other Jewish traders observing the kosher dietary rules had visited before. Berg built a store in tiny Spokane Falls in 1879 and by 1885 he had been joined by at least a dozen other Jewish merchants. The town's first Jewish services were held in a private home in 1885. In 1890, the Jewish community met to organize a Reform congregation, called Congregation Emanu-El. On September 14, 1892, they dedicated their synagogue, Temple Emanu-El, the first in the state by four days, since Seattle's Ohaveth Sholum opened within a week. Jewish merchants and financiers played a key role in the development of Spokane during its early decades. A second congregation, the Orthodox Keneseth Israel congregation was formed in 1901. Both congregations thrived until they merged in 1966 and built a new, modern temple, the Temple Beth Shalom. It remains the center of Spokane's Jewish community today. The city's Jewish population has remained steady through the decade, yet is estimated at less than 1 percent of the metropolitan area's population."
Spokane Islamic Center was founded in 1979 and serves over 1100 Muslims in the Greater Spokane area. Our community is very diverse and is composed of various ethnicity and backgrounds including, Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bosnia, Croatia, England, Egypt, Gambia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Kashmir, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Palestine, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Senegal, Singapore, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United States, Yemen, and more.
Both the Jewish community and the Muslim community in Spokane have been the target of hate crimes in the last couple of years. But rather than dwelling in that victim place we are finding that sweet green grass where we can enjoy each other.
Not Taking Advantage of Your Amazon Author's page?
Kimberly Burnham helps authors get their books out into the world more broadly by improving their free Amazon Author's page and book pages, posting a book review on her blog and on her LinkedIn Pulse blog (over 12,000 followers) Promotion packages start at $50. Contact her at NerveWhisperer@gmail.com. See her Amazon Author's Page.
See her list of publications including her latest book of brain health meditations, Awakenings: Peace Dictionary, Language and the Mind, a Daily Brain Health Program.
Designed to enhance memory, creativity, and inner peace, Awakenings: Peace,Dictionary, Language and the Mind, a Daily Brain Health Program is available free of charge as a Kindle eBook on February 14-15, 2019. [Click Here].
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I am looking for guest blog opportunities and a position as poet-in-residence. My current project is writing dictionary poems using words in different languages for the English word "peace." You can read some of my poems on Poemhunter .
As poet-in-residence I would write poems on different words in different languages and broadcast them throughout the social media blogosphere. Each poem would link back to your site where the word or language appeared.
I would expect some sort of stipend and a six month to one year placement. Please contact me for details if your organization is interested in having a poet-in-residence to help get your message out. Nervewhisperer@gmial.com
Buy the print or eBook, review Awakenings then contact Kimberly for a free 20 minute brain health consultation. Email or Phone
(Regular rates $120 per hour or 10 sessions for $650.)