Jews and Muslims Break Fast Together

Members of Harvard’s Jewish and Muslim communities broke fasts together Saturday night to celebrate two of the holiest holidays in each religion and to highlight the commonalities between the two faiths.

Saturday was the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, and Muslims are observing Ramadan, a month which focuses on charity and religious piety. Both holidays require followers to fast until sundown.

Batool Z. Ali ’10, the treasurer of the Harvard Islamic Society, said that organizers hoped the event would provide an opportunity to meet and befriend people of the other faith.

“We wanted to emphasize what is so similar about our faiths, as a bridge for interfaith understanding,” said Islamic Society Vice President Hasan K. Siddiqi ’08.

The break fast occurred at 7:30 p.m., after members of both faiths completed their prayer services. After dinner, Muslim students held another set of prayers and invited Jewish students to observe, Siddiqi said. Students of other faiths were also welcomed at the event.

Neil C. Murthy ’08, a Catholic student and the chair of community service for the Interfaith Council, said he appreciated the meal both because many of his blockmates are Muslim and because of the good food.

Benjamin K. Glaser ’09 joked that he too came to the event because he was “disappointed by the food at other break fasts.”

He added that he thought the event was important because of the “spirit of intercultural understanding” it promoted.

In a speech before the dinner, Islamic Society President Shaheer A. Rizvi ’08 encouraged those in attendance to make at least one lasting friendship during the evening—to “leave the politics aside and make a personal connection” that would facilitate difficult discussions in the future.

Indeed, at every table, members of both faiths sat together to enjoy their meal and create these relationships.

“I came this year because of the war... there’s so much hatred in the Middle East,” said Mia P. Walker ’10. “If we can unite here, there’s hope.”

Rizvi estimated that 150 to 200 people—including undergraduates, graduate students, professors, and family members—came to the meal, which was co-sponsored by the Islamic Society, Harvard Hillel, and the Harvard Interfaith Council. Siddiqi said this was the third consecutive year for the event, though students had attended similar services off and on in the past.

— Staff writer Aditi Balakrishna can be reached at balakris@fas.harvard.edu.