September 24, 2007

Students Hunger for Diversity

Print More

On Saturday night, Jewish and Muslim Cornell students gathered at 104West!, the multi-cultural kosher dining hall, to break the fasts of Yom Kippur and Ramadan. The event was organized by the Center for Jewish Living (CJL), Muslim Educational and Cultural Assocation and the Iranian Students Organization.
Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement on which many Jews fast for 25 hours. Ramadan is a month-long Muslim holiday that marks the revelation of the Koran. Many Muslims fast each day from sunrise to sunset. Because Judaism and Islam each have their own calendars, the two holidays rarely coincide.
MECA President Sabrina Imam ’09 said that she was interested in having MECA participate in the dinner because, while “Judaism and Islam have a lot in common, there’s a lot we don’t understand. I wanted to take advantage of this special time.”
Muqtadar Ahmed grad agreed.
“I wanted to find out more,” he said. “I wanted to see how Yom Kippur resembles Ramadan and I thought it was interesting that they fell at the same time.”
Students attending the dinner were glad to have the opportunity to learn about traditions with which they were not familiar.
“Muslim and Jewish practices are very similar,” said Jake Arem ’11. “We asked each other a lot of questions, and I learned a lot. I’m glad I came.”
104West! Chef Barclay Porter said he was glad to “cook extra food” for the typical Jewish break fast that 104West! holds every year in order to accommodate the Muslim students coming for the first time.
Many attendees believed that the dinner gave hope that Jews and Muslims can get along. Majed Almarshad, Cornell’s first Saudi law student, said the dinner showed that Jews and Muslims “can live, work, eat and study together. What we did here, hopefully we can do in the Middle East.”
Similarly, Yigal Gross grad, who came to the dinner to “open up [his] eyes,” said, “I came out with a sense of hope. I see what unites us — certain ideals and shared beliefs we care deeply about.”
Judd Robert Rothstein grad, one of the organizers of the event, said that 104West! is a natural center of Jewish-Muslim dialogue since the food is both kosher and halal.
“Universities are an island of chaos in the world, a place where people can meet and have a dialogue,” Rothstein said. “I hope that these future leaders of the world will remember eating together.”
Daniel Kohn ’08, the president of the CJL, agreed, saying, “I hope that Muslim students will feel more welcome to come eat here and we’ll share more meals together in the future.”