Detroit Twinning: Salaam Aleikum/Shalom Aleichem

By Rabbi Dorit Edut
Being welcomed into a mosque from the first moment with “Salaam Aleikum” is not probably an experience that most Jewish people have – nor having Muslims attend a Jewish Sabbath service is also an unusual experience for most of us. Yet this wonderful, peaceful, and spiritually uplifting experience is something that occurred in downtown Detroit on Friday afternoon, Nov. 16 and Saturday morning Nov. 17.   Yes, this actually happened in the midst of the crisis in Israel and Gaza – though it certainly had not been planned or anticipated to be at the same time!
     Members of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue and the Detroit Interfaith Outreach Network came to the Friday afternoon services at the Muslim Center of Detroit on W. Davison, and were warmly  greeted both by the congregants before the service and during the service by Imam Abdullah El-Amin who spoke of the good relations being built between our two communities and of the need for men to treat their wives with respect so that they would also be respected in the world.  Women were given scarves to cover their heads and sat in the middle and back of the carpeted sanctuary, while men sat in the front half, only divided by a rope.  All removed their shoes before coming into the sanctuary and were encouraged to wash hands, face, and feet  to insure both bodily and spiritual purity before entering the sanctuary. Two hundred Muslim members of the congregation entered quietly , each one bowing and saying their own prayer silently, while the Imam gave his teaching in English. Then people formed lines standing up and facing the front, listening to the Arabic lines chanted which gave praise to Allah, bowing and prostrating themselves several times, and responding with a few words in Arabic meaning ” God is great!” There were also chairs for those who wanted to sit on the sides or back of the room,too, but most people sat on the comfortable, thick carpets. At the end everyone greeted the others with “Peace be with you – Salaam Aleikum” and then we were invited to partake in a special reception sponsored by a couple that had just had their wedding this past week. “Such a beautiful service!” was the comment of Samantha Wohl of the Downtown Synagogue. Gail Katz, of the interfaith women’s group WISDOM, who has attended other services at mosques, found this to be very nice in that it blended traditional prayers with a modern-day message, and easily and naturally brought people of different backgrounds, ages, and cultures together. Karen Knox, of the Downtown Synagogue, was fascinated by the new Jazz Cafe that the mosque has opened in memory of Walid Muhammad who was a member as well as a famous trombonist with the Dizzie Gillespie band.
        On Shabbat morning the Downtown Synagogue welcomed a small group that came to be part of the services and stayed for the Kiddush Luncheon afterwards. Many questions about Judaism and the service itself were answered afterwards during the friendly conversations over vegetarian lasagne, split pea soup, and blueberry pie that synagogue members had prepared for lunch.
        We hope to have more opportunities to do things together,especially for the good of our city, and learn about each other’s traditions in the coming months. We hope that this peaceful gathering will serve as a model to others in the rest of our world who think that Jews and Muslims cannot get along.

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