Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
This past weekend, hundreds of graves at the Shel Emeth Jewish cemetery in St. Louis were vandalized. No sooner was this terrible act publicized, than two Muslim activists mobilized their faith community to rebuild the cemetery. Within three hours, Linda Sarsour and Tarik El-Messidi’s campaign reached its goal of $20,000. By the end of 24 hours, the page “Muslims Unite to Repair Jewish Cemetery” had raised $80,000.
In all honesty, I was not surprised by the vandalism. After two months of bomb threats at Jewish Community Centers, and the burning of mosques, and so much more—I’ve been fully aware that violence against non-Christians was on the rise. All religious minorities have reason to be fearful—but still, arguably, none more so than our Muslim brothers and sisters.
Despite facing deportation, physical violence, and so much more – the Muslim community continues to stand up for other religious minorities. Muslim-American activists – Sarsour in particular, as a leader of the recent Women’s March – have been targeted and harassed through online campaigns in recent months. No one would blame activists for keeping their heads down. No one would blame Muslims if they sent their money to their own faith community. Yet in this moment of need, the Muslim community was there – citing their faith as the reason why. Their fundraising website reads:
“While these senseless acts have filled us with sorrow, we reflect on the message of unity, tolerance, and mutual protection found in the Constitution of Medina: an historic social contract between the Medinan Jews and the first Muslim community. We are also inspired by the example of our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who stood up to pay respects for a passing Jewish funeral procession. When questioned on why he stood for a Jewish funeral, he responded, “Is it not a human soul?” [Source: Bukhari].”
I am touched by this expression of interfaith – and human – solidarity, and awed by the selflessness of the Muslim community. In return, I am asking more of myself and more of my own faith community. I am grateful that the Institute of Southern Jewish Life, situated in Jackson, Mississippi, has a long history of interfaith work, including partnering in programming and community presentations with the International Museum of Muslim Cultures, also located right here in Jackson.
When mosques are targeted or Muslims profiled, we as Jews must hold our heads high and stand with them. As Sarsour and El-Messidi’s examples show, the best way to demonstrate the values of our faith is to advocate for others. It isn’t always easy, but it’s the right thing to do.