LA synagogue's invite to Muslims on Ramadan ends in tears and resignations. Can they heal?

Jenny Jarvie, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Religious News

LOS ANGELES — It started with good intentions.

When a Jewish temple in the San Fernando Valley opened its doors to Muslims for the holy month of Ramadan, its rabbis hoped to offer a model of interfaith outreach.

“There is more that unites us than divides us,” Rabbis Stewart Vogel and Richard Camras wrote in an email to Hamakom L.A.’s congregation announcing their plan to rent their synagogue to the Islamic Society of West Valley, whose own house of worship was too small to accommodate everyone for the holiday.

The rabbis understood that their plan was unusual, particularly at a time when death and destruction in the Middle East weigh heavily on Muslim and Jewish communities around the world.

But they sought to transcend that. Their temple — formed last summer in the affluent neighborhood of Woodland Hills when two synagogues merged — would be a beacon of goodwill and understanding, a place where L.A. Jews and Muslims could gather in mutual toleration, appreciation and grace.

Hamakom is a strongly Zionist community that believes Israel has a right to self-defense and self-determination. Many in the congregation were shocked when they read the rabbis’ email.


Some worried about security. Others were bothered their evening programs and Friday Shabbat service would move to a different location. Most of all they wondered: Why were they notified the same day of the first Ramadan prayer service?

The dissent might have ended there. But just a few hours before Muslim worshipers started to arrive at the temple, a photo began to circulate.

It showed a display honoring Israelis taken hostage by Hamas in its Oct. 7. attack had been covered.

For many in the Hamakom congregation, the covering of Israeli hostages was a step too far. It represented an erasure of Israeli suffering and an unnecessary concession to political adversaries.


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