Visiting the MASJID Mosque

IMG_3183On a grey  Waltham Sunday May 15 , 2016, several gentlemen holding balloons of many colors brightened  the way to the entry (just behind the India Market)  where  The MASJID (Mosque) of Waltham convened its carefully planned  OPEN HOUSE  organized  as a “teach-in”  proudly held within the mosque’s  new spacious quarters at 313 Moody Street. The Muslim community prayed here that all  the Waltham Community would join them, and not fear them and learn about and appreciate their faith.

At the Mosque door barefoot parents and their children invited me to follow their example; to remove my shoes.  We all stood- barefoot–toes of all colors–equal on the floor. Little children pressed eagerly toward me, offering me one long stemmed rose. Twisted to the bottom of each stem was a white pipe cleaner  attaching a paper with a spiritual  message. Mine read:  “A smile is Charity”  Charity in Arabic  is Tzedakah / The same word as our  Hebrew word.

The many resonances between their faith and our often brought tears to my eyes. Here, in the mosque, I found in ME a wound that needs to be healed. Respecting people whom I do not know– striving– as we are,–to live well  and beautifully in their faith.

The big prayer room had been set up with seats, but people exceeded all available seats. Men women and older children garbed in  glorious unfamiliar garments leaned against the walls. at times supported by uniquely carved bookshelves, cut into the walls in shapes  carved  the  Arabic letters to  spell : READ.” One man proudly told me: “It  was hard to carve book shelves in  those Arabic letter shapes.”

IMG_3185 The speakers I could hear — one by one– spoke of their belief in God, our HaShem. Most powerful to me was my sense in that place of HaShem’s presence. Devotion was palpable. No “maybe” there is a God. Their belief seemed firm as each speaker taught us about how their practices embodied in  the SIX  PILLARS of their faith. Prayers also were printed on table displays, On the bathroom walls too.  YES even in the bathroom I read prayers to say to thank HaShem for our bodies’ abilities to function! The same prayer (almost) that our Susan Holbert posted outside our shul’s bathroom.

As a writer of American history too sadly I know our nations long history of “other -izing” new comers. making them less than human. Africans in post Civil War were given a mathematical calculus, Africans were 3/5th person. 19th century Irish also had to struggle to be counted, and then came us, the Jews. Then “Hispanics” (an invented word) that bears the brunt. So last Sunday when the Rhode Island Imam pleaded to all of us– “the community” –that we see Muslims as Americans, our businessmen, doctor, teachers, construction workers, his words struck a deep chord in me.

Then our shul’s Catherine Cantrell asked:” How  does  this Mosque address Muslim -associated terror?”  He answered her in the sad true way…saying his truth; how hard it is for peaceful Moslem voices to be heard. The media  seeks contention!!!  The media popularize the  opposite of what he and his community pray for every day.

On May 15 the Waltham Muslim community made great efforts to welcome us, to teach us about the way of life precious to them.  I took away from the OUTREACH EVENT a challenge that this event offered TO US . Here in Waltham is one vulnerable  people struggling to live and raise a new generation in their faith.  Our challenge is to organize our own TEACH-IN. to create OUR OWN  event for Jews and non- Jews that might invite appreciation, understanding,and  saying  out loud  to OTHERS–what binds us together, why  Judaism is so precious to us.

Of course this challenge  /struggle/ is thousands of years old. Long ago in Spain Moslems and Jews appreciated one another  enriched the same culture. Now  we are not alone is this work to connect.  Its at the center of CHABAD’s mission  BUT  NOW, can we gather the knowledge and courage to teach others, invite others to learn from us ?

Diana Korzenik