On August 16, approximately 100 guests attended the second annual iftar celebration co-sponsored by AJC Washington, the American Islamic Congress, and the British Embassy. The event was held at the residence of Phillip Barton, the British Deputy Chief of Mission. In addition to a small delegation of AJC leaders, guests included leaders from the Muslim community, congressional staff, administration officials, and members of the media. Mr. Barton, AJC Washington Director Melanie Maron Pell, and AIC Executive Director Zainab Al-Suwaij offered remarks.
Melanie Maron Pell – Iftar Remarks August 16, 2012
Good evening and Ramadan Mubarak.
My name is Melanie Maron Pell, and I am the Director of the Washington Regional Office of AJC, the American Jewish Committee. On behalf of all of us from AJC, let me first thank our hosts, Deputy Chief of Mission Barton and Mrs. Barton, for again graciously opening up your home to us for this beautiful event, and let me also thank our wonderful partners at the American Islamic Congress for working so hard to make this evening such a success.
For those of you who attended last year’s iftar, you may recall that it was the same day as the earthquake. As is so often the case for those of us in Washington and those of us engaged in complicated, challenging interfaith and international relations, we were shaken but not deterred! We came together then as we come together tonight, in a spirit of friendship and of community.
For AJC and for the Jewish community, gatherings like this are powerful and valuable opportunities for us to be together, to learn about each other’s traditions, to break bread together, and to honor each other’s holy days and important traditions.
While not identical, Jews and Muslims share many central practices, such as prayer, almsgiving, dietary laws, and fasting. The Jewish calendar, in fact, has five fast days, and the purpose of fasting is similar. Fasting allows us to reflect and to focus and to lower the volume on our physical pursuits so that we can focus more deeply on our spiritual selves.
For all of us – of any faith or of no faith – we benefit from such moments of reflection. In a noisy world filled with earthquakes, with conflict, with division, we all benefit from moments of quiet reflection and from moments like this, of connection, of celebration, and of mutual respect. As we saw in Wisconsin in the horrific attack on the Sikh Temple, there are always those with an agenda of hatred, of fear, and of bigotry. But there are far more of US than there are of THEM.
We have a shared responsibility as people of faith, as people of conscience, and as people of good will, to actively seek opportunities for collaboration, for deepening our understanding of and appreciation for each other, and for celebration. AJC is committed to this – we have been for decades – and we look forward to building on these important gatherings.
So, just as Jews break the fast surrounded by family and friends, we are delighted to be here with you in the spirit of family and friendship, as you break your fast after a very long August day.
I hope everyone here tonight meets someone new and learns something.
Thank you again to our most gracious hosts, and thank you all for being here this evening.
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Members of AJC Washington's Leadership Circle were invited to a farewell reception for Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), hosted by Her Excellency Nirupama Rao, Ambassador of India to the United States. Other confirmed speakers included Ambassador Barukh Binah, Israel Deputy Head of Mission.