(submitted by Walter Ruby, Foundation for Ethnic Understanding)
Three Jewish and three Muslim spiritual leaders from round Long Island came together at the Islamic Society of Long Island in Westbury on November 13 to talk about the impact of tikkun olam and islah—the Judaic and Islamic moral injunction to repair the world and help those in society most in need—in their own lives and their pastoral work.
Participants in the panel discussion, Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum, Senor Rabbi, Temple Israel of Lawrence, Dr. Abdul Jabbar, Director, Masjid Darul Quran, Bayshore, Rabbi Michael White, Senior Rabbi, Temple Sinai, Roslyn Heights, Imam Ahmed Kamal, Long Island Muslim Center, East Meadow, Rabbi Arthur Schwartz, Senior Rabbi Kehillath Shalom, Cold Spring Harbor, and Sister Sanaa Nadim, Chaplain, SUNY-Stony Brook, answered in personal and often moving terms to questions from Habeeb Ahmed of the Islamic Center of Long Island and Walter Ruby of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and from audience members. Each stressed the central role that nurturing tikkun olam and islah has played in their lives and pastoral work, with Rabbi Schwartz affirming the need for people of faith to “bring out a spirit of divine light in each other” and with Imam Kamal affirming; “Doing righteous work—tikkun olam and islah–is a fundamental commandment for all of us.”
Rabbi White characterized what he called “the sacred work of tikkun olam as “identifying who is in pain and, in a cruel world, deciding what can I do to bring them health and happiness,” while Sister Nadim said that the discussion had enlightened all concerned as to how much the two faiths have in common “in upholding both spiritual enlightenment and social justice.”
After the presentations, panelists and members of the audience entered into an open-ended discussion as to which social issues the Muslim and Jewish communities might engage together at a time of great economic distress on Long Island; with several people urging that the two communities consider responding together to injustices being endured by illegal immigrants on the Island. There appeared to general agreement that a two step process is needed; raising consciousness in the Muslim and Jewish communities as to how similar are the moral injunctions in both faiths to help those in need, and then joining together in social action to reduce the level of human misery that exists in the larger community that Jews and Muslims cohabit.