Having worked in the faith sector for almost a year now, you’d expect me to have visited a synagogue before. I guess there was never really the opportunity for me to.
Churches, however, I’ve been to many. I’d lit a candle and say a prayer, and feel connected to Mary. The only woman mentioned in the Holy Quran 34 times, and who has an entire Chapter dedicated to her.
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel when I was invited to a synagogue. However, as soon as I entered, I instantly connected spiritually and felt at peace. Just how I feel when entering a Mosque or Church.
I was invited to the Synagogue as part of an interfaith initiative, to give Muslim women an insight into leadership development and an insight into the daily running of a community synagogue.
Rabbi Mark Goldsmith is a rabbi at the synagogue. He showed us around and explained the surroundings. He first pointed out the stained-glass windows which reflected the Jewish calendar. The image still in mind was the symbolism of the tree of life and just above it in Hebrew it read ‘The light of God is the soul of the human being’.
As a Muslim, this was something I related to. I believe only you and God know the connection you feel in your heart and soul. What your faith means to you and how you incorporate your religion into your life. As well as being a practising Muslim, I also find the beauty in the symbolism and spiritually of faith. The quote therefore was one that gave me warmth and peace.
Rabbi Mark showed us the Torah and explained to us how it’s read on a Saturday morning service. The Torahs were covered in colorful and detailed covers, with some originating from the Middle East. The Rabbi began reciting verses and I drew a lot of similarities with the Arabic language. I recognised the words ‘Oh, brother’ and Yousif, from what he was saying. It was these small things that made me realise how similar the Jewish and Muslim faiths are.
I noticed this more so as the day went on, we had engaging sessions within the group and many of the women spoke about trials they have faced in their life. It was the commonality in the devotion to faith between the two that struck me, even some of the challenges women face within the religion, were similar.
I took a lot away from the day, the theological ideology and symbolism within the Jewish faith, the devotion and commitment to the faith and more practically, the positive sense of community the synagogue promotes.
Written by Aya Bdaiwi