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By Abdurrahman Abdurrob, University Chaplaincy Student Worker, Tufts Muslim Student Association President

Just a few weeks ago, Muslims across the world concluded their fasting for the holy month of Ramadan.

Fasting during Ramadan does not only entail abstention from food, but also by a fast of the mind and soul. For me, Ramadan is an opportunity to become humbled and appreciative of the numerous blessings in this world and is a chance to maintain peace and tranquility with all.

Islam is not the only faith in which fasting is prescribed. Judaism also has many days marked by fasting. One of these particular fasts is the 17 of Tammuz, which falls within the Islamic month of Ramadan. The 17th day of the month of Tammuz commemorates the breach of the walls of Jerusalem and also the destruction of the ten commandments. The fasting lasts from sunrise to sunset, which is exactly the same as the daily fasts in Islam for Ramadan. The 17th of Tammuz this year coincided with the 15th of July, which is coincidentally also the 17th of Ramadan (both Hebrew and Hijri or Islamic Calendar are based on the Lunar cycle). With all these similarities and shared traditions, and an unfortunate backdrop of conflict all around the world, the Tufts University Chaplaincy, the Tufts Muslim Students Association, and Tufts Hillel, decided to take this opportunity to show unity and break fast together.

On July 15, a Shared Breaking of the Fast program was hosted at Tufts’ Interfaith Center. Celene Ibrahim-Lizzio, the Ramadan Muslim Chaplain and a key organizer of this event, said, “I am an advocate for inter-cultural and inter-religious experiences, in general, because they nurture empathy and help students expand their cognitive horizons. However, it is particularly critical that Jewish and Muslim student communities make efforts to form authentic ties. This is all the more imperative among university students who aspire to be the executives, policy makers, civil servants, engineers, doctors, and religious leaders of future generations.”

Ibrahim-Lizzio, along with Rabbi Jordan Braunig, co-facilitated the event, which began with a Jewish blessing, followed by the Islamic call to prayer, after which everyone broke fast with dates, according to Islamic tradition. After dinner, Ibrahim-Lizzio facilitated an activity where attendees partnered with an unfamiliar face to answer the seemingly simple question of “Why am I here?” Not only did this provide engaging discussion, but the activity also kept everyone talking and enjoying each other’s company until the ‘Isha prayers.

As Rabbi Braunig said in his reflection on this event, “Jewish students and Muslim students sat together, sipping on tea and juice, breaking bread and immersing in conversation.  We learned from one another about the cultural and spiritual significance of our practices, and connected about our shared experiences as members of the Tufts community. Two days later, walking across campus, I bumped into the student who had led the Muslim evening prayers, and I was able to wish him an easy fast.”

There are many examples of Muslims and Jews all around the world taking this opportunity to focus on their similarities and unite. I’m glad that the Tufts’ community was able to promote the messages of peace and cooperation shared by both faiths.