Mahboob Akhter, Orange County Islamic Foundation, (949) 436-8604 makhter3@yahoo.com

Rabbi Rachel Kort, Temple Beth El of South Orange County, (949) 306-9855 Rabbikort@tbesoc.org

Walter Ruby, Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (917) 294-1772 walterruby@gmail.com

In a gesture of good will to residents of the Orange County Rescue Mission (OCRM) and to the larger Christian community, members of a prominent O.C. mosque and synagogue will serve lunch to some 200 residents at OCRM on Christmas Day. The volunteers from Orange County Islamic Foundation (OCIF) in Mission Viejo and Temple Beth of South Orange County (TBESOC) in Aliso Viejo will replace OCRM residents who normally serve lunch to their fellow residents, thereby allowing them to take a break from their daily task and to enjoy Christmas lunch with their families.

The visit to OCRM, which has a Christian orientation, by six volunteers from the Orange County Islamic Foundation and six from Temple Beth El of South Orange County, is the latest manifestation of a decade-long ‘twinning’ relationship between members of the two congregations, which has made Orange County the focus of one of the most positive examples of grass roots Muslim-Jewish relationship building. The Christmas Day event is also the final event and capstone of the two month long International Season of Twinning, sponsored by the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding www.ffeu.org, during which Muslims and Jews held more than 50 joint events in 20 countries across North America, Europe, South America, Australia, Israel and North Africa on the theme of “We Refuse to Be Enemies.” FFEU has been working since 2008 to build a global movement of Muslims and Jews committed to communication, reconciliation and cooperation.

Mahboob Akhter, a member of the Board of Directors of OCIF, who will lead the volunteers from the mosque, commented, “We and our friends form TBESOC decided to serve lunch to residents of the Rescue Mission on Christmas Day because we want to be there for them and for all of our Christian brothers and sisters. Our longer term purpose is to create an ‘Umbrella of Abrahamic Faiths’ through which Muslims, Jews and Christians will do good deeds for each other; starting by serving each other on our respective holidays and special occasions.”

According to Rabbi Rachel Kort of TBESOC, “By volunteering at OCRM and making it possible for all the residents to share Christmas lunch with their families, the volunteers from TBESOC and OCIF are fulfilling the moral imperative at the heart of both Islam and Judaism to reach out and succor those in society who are most in need. We share this ethical perspective with the Christian community as well, so are very happy to be of service at the Rescue Mission.”.

Walter Ruby, Muslim-Jewish Program Director at the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, who will fly in from Washington for the event, commented, “It is fitting that the final event of the Season of Twinning should be spearheaded by OCIF and TBESOC, two wonderful congregations which have developed a close twinning relationship that is an inspiration to Muslims and Jews around the world. It will be an honor for me to be there with them to as they perform a mission of kindness and caring for our Christian brothers and sisters at the Orange County Rescue Mission.

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