Hundreds Gather for Watertown’s Cross-Cultural Celebration of a Muslim Holiday

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Chuck Dickinson

One of dozens of tables of people who came together for Watertown's Second Annual Community Iftar, the feast to celebrate Ramadan.

One of dozens of tables of people who came together for Watertown’s Second Annual Community Iftar, the feast to celebrate Ramadan.

The organizers of Watertown Celebrates Iftar provided the following piece:

Watertown’s Second Community Iftar proved again that Watertown truly embraces its diversity. Last week at the Mosesian Cultural and Youth Center of St. James Armenian Church, nearly 200 people shared Iftar, the fast-breaking meal that takes place every evening during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Supported by Watertown Community Foundation and many area restaurants, and co-sponsored by World in Watertown, Progressive Watertown, First Parish Church and Church of the Good Shepherd, this event was conceived by the Refugee Support Group of Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment. The purpose of this Iftar was to bring together Muslims and non-Muslims for interfaith dialogue, increased understanding, festive food, and making of new friends.

High-schoolers Arjina Hassan and Anjali Mitra met at last year’s Community Iftar and have become friends since.

Attendees were guided to sit with people they did not know. The evening began with a warm welcome from Refugee Support Group hosts Sue-Ellen Hershman-Tcherepnin and Amira Elamri. The crowd gave a resounding reply when Amira taught everyone traditional Arabic greetings.

The program proceeded with readings, personal stories, and short videos made by local students that demonstrated the close bonds between families and friends of different faiths. Third-grader Tia Aldehneh and first-grader Hili Barkaee read aloud from “A Moon for Moe and Me” by Jane Breskin and Mehrdokht Amini, accompanied by visuals provided by 13-year old Danny Aledehneh. This book tells the story of the friendship between a Muslim boy and a Jewish boy. Fifth-grader Maya Mahmoud Musa spoke about her friendship with Sophia Setouhi, and showed 2 short videos they made describing their shared celebrations and respect for each other’s religious traditions.

Attendees of the Second Annual Community Iftar are served a variety of dishes for dinner.

High- schoolers Arjina Hassan and Anjali Mitra spoke about having met at the first Watertown Community Iftar, and how, in spite of their ethnic and religious differences, this sparked their becoming close friends ever since. Belmont Muslim Friends co-founder Farah Abbas also related the challenges of raising a Muslim family in America.

To close out the program, children and adults at each table engaged in thoughtful discussion of different faith traditions. As one attendee noted, “My table included 4 Muslims, 2 agnostics and 2 Christians – I loved our conversations!”

Imam Fenni of Yusuf Mosque in Brighton provided insight into the meaning of Ramadan.

At sunset approached, Imam Ismail Fenni of Yusuf Mosque in Brighton provided insight into the meaning of Ramadan, and chanted the Adhan Call to Prayer when sunset arrived. The fast was then broken with the traditional eating of dates, and continued well into the evening with delicious Middle Eastern food and lively conversation among new and old friends. In the words of 3 other attendees: “I am grateful to everyone who created this truly outstanding, cross-cultural celebration!“; “You made everyone feel so welcome and appreciated!”; and last but not least, “I am proud to be Muslim, but even prouder to be a resident of Watertown.”

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