SERVING UP PEACE: Muslim, Jewish volunteers work as a team to feed hungry, homeless

Somerset – Scott Thompson, at left, places assembled meals into boxes at the end of the meal assembly line in a hallway at the Muslim Foundation, Inc. The Rutgers Shalom/Salaam student organization and other multi-ethnic volunteers join at the Muslim Foundation, Inc. mosque in Somerset to prepare over 500 meals for the homeless on Sunday, November 20, 2011. (AUGUSTO F. MENEZES/Staff photographer) METRO. B69623630Z.1 / A.F. MENEZES/MyCentralJersey/STAFF
Written by
Cheryl Makin | Staff Writer
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FRANKLIN — While peace in the Middle East seems elusive to many, Muslim and Jewish volunteers in Middlesex and Somerset counties joyfully worked together on Sunday to feed the homeless.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, more than 100 members of the Muslims Against Hunger Project, Rutgers Shalom-Salaam and the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding gathered at the Muslim Foundation Inc. mosque in Somerset to cook meals from both religions’ cookbooks.

Delicious smells wafting up from the basement kitchen area of the mosque mingled with friendly conversations and laughter. Volunteers of both faiths created more than 400 meals for the homeless at a veterans shelter and in New York City.

In three hours, volunteers cooked meals consisting of tandoori chicken, rice pilaf, chickpea salad, mixed vegetables (corn and string beans), regular salad, buttered bread, kheer (rice pudding) and cholent (a meat and vegetable stew).

After the cooking session, the volunteers — many wearing Jewish kipot skullcaps and Muslim hijab headscarves — broke bread together as they sampled their meals for an interfaith luncheon of their own.

And after members of both religions recited their afternoon prayers, a group of the volunteers headed to deliver the meals to the homeless.

One group delivered the lunches to the homeless at the Basking Ridge VA homeless shelter, while a second group went to New York City.

There, the volunteers were joined by a group of Brooklyn-based Orthodox Jews from Masbia, a nonprofit soup kitchen network and food pantry that operates in Brooklyn and Queens.

The volunteers then delivered between 150 and 200 boxed meals to the homeless in local hangouts.

The idea for the mission was the brainchild of Zamir Hassan, founder and director of the 10-year-old Muslims Against Hunger Project, and Walter Ruby, the Muslim Jewish Relations Program Officer of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, a New York-based nonprofit organization.

Rutgers Shalom-Salaam was created in 2010 by Will Eastman, a college senior from Edison, and Bahaa Hashem, an Egyptian native. With the addition of students Jane Vorkuhova and Amjad Saeed, the group was born.

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