Breaking bread: Synagogue to host Shabbat dinner with Muslim neighbours

Ghfran Almahamed (from left), Gillian Sonin, Saja Almahamed and Kat Romanow plan a Shabbat dinner to be held at an event at Temple Emanuel-El-Beth Sholom as part of Muslim Awareness Week. Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette

There will be tabbouleh and fatayer, a savoury Arabic pastry filled with cheese or spinach, among the 10 or so dishes at a Shabbat dinner at Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom on Friday night; they’ll be set out alongside salade cuite, a signature dish of the Moroccan Jewish community made with tomatoes, bell peppers and garlic, and an Ashkenazi cauliflower-mushroom kugel topped with crispy shallots.

As Muslim Awareness Week gets under way Jan. 25 and the second anniversary of the mosque shooting in Quebec City that killed six worshippers and injured 19 is marked Jan. 29, the Westmount synagogue is holding a Muslim Awareness Shabbat. It will begin with a vegetarian dinner made up of dishes from Arab and Jewish communities, to be prepared by members of both communities and served family style. The Shabbat service following dinner will feature two speakers from Montreal’s Muslim community.

“The whole idea of Muslim Awareness Week is to go out and build bridges,” said Ehab Lotayef, chairman of the week’s coordinating committee. The public is invited to attend conferences, presentations, open houses, vigils and movie screenings planned by dozens of organizations across the province to learn about the contributions, aspirations and concerns of Muslim Quebecers. It’s the first of what he hopes will become an annual event.

“As members of this very diverse society, we have to play our part, to go outside our comfort zone and interact,” Lotayef, who is one of the two speakers at the Shabbat service, told the Montreal Gazette in an interview. “And nothing is easy at the beginning, of course.”