Abrahamic religions come together for inaugural event

'By coming together for a Shabbat-Iftar dinner, Jews and Muslims can learn from each other, share their experiences, and find common ground'.

Guests taking part in the Iftar-Shabbat service.
Guests taking part in the Iftar-Shabbat service.

The ARK Centre and the Australian Intercultural Society (AIS) held an inaugural Shabbat-Iftar dinner last Friday night, celebrating the crossover of the holy days of two Abrahamic religions.

The central event to the evening’s gathering was a panel that posed the question: Can refraining from bread lead to spiritual growth?

The panellists included Victorian Multicultural Commission chairperson Vivienne Nguyen, academic Susan Carland and AJN journalist Mia Gardiner.

The panel was moderated by deputy editor of The Sunday Age, Stephen Brook.

“By coming together for a Shabbat-Iftar dinner, Jews and Muslims can learn from each other, share their experiences, and find common ground,” executive director of the AIS Ahmet Keskin said.

“This gathering provides an opportunity to enhance relationships so we could address common issues like hate, manifesting in the form of antisemitism and Islamophobia, and ally in the fight against bigotry and hate towards other groups.”

The panel and Shabbat service were followed by a call to prayer and a vegetarian feast for attendees at sunset to mark Shabbat and Iftar.

Guests included Archbishop Peter Comensoli, Member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly Nathan Lambert, Victorian Opposition Leader John Pesutto, Jess Wilson MP, Sheena Watt MP, Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Ro Allen.

Rabbi Gabi Kaltmann told The AJN that the ARK Centre is proud to have facilitated this Australian-first Shabbat dinner and Iftar break-fast.

“Our aim was to foster understanding and respect across our different Abrahamic faiths. Interfaith dialogue is an essential component of building stronger and more inclusive communities,” he said.

“As Jews and Muslims, we may have some different rituals and different ways of framing our beliefs, but ultimately we share a lot in common. We all believe in the importance of community, of reaching out to others, and of opening our doors to those in need.”

Keskin told The AJN, “What I really got out of the gathering was seeing the opportunity to celebrate diversity and inclusion, pluralism, … the cornerstones of a thriving democracy. By embracing and respecting the differences among us, we can create a society that is more respectful, dynamic and innovative.”

Rabbi Kaltmann echoed those sentiments saying, “Hosting a Shabbat and Iftar dinner at the ARK Centre was a way for us to come together, to share our traditions, and to remind ourselves of the common humanity that binds us together.”

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