"For the first time in over 30 years, Muslims and Jews (along with Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus and Baha'is) will celebrate their spring holidays at the same time. Ramadan, Passover, Easter and Vaisakhi are overlapping for the first time since 1991. This is a unique opportunity to expand our personal and collective religious literacy, to promote understanding and curiosity during our shared time of observance." - Sheridan Ruiz and Religion and Society Program, Aspen Institute
Ramadan and Passover are two holidays that many may not associate with each other. However, if one studies the purposes, themes and scriptural references to these holy days, it becomes apparent that one of the central themes is transforming ourselves to be spiritually liberated.
Ramadan lasts for 29 - 30 days, depending on the lunar calendar and moon sighting whereas Passover lasts for seven to eight days.
The second book of the Torah, called Exodus or Shemot (literally ‘names’ in Hebrew) tells the famous story of the ten plagues and slaves of Israel leaving Egypt. In the middle of that story is a commandment to eat matzah (unleavened bread) and to ‘tell this story’ to your children. The Qur’an shares the same story and one can read this great article published by IslamiCity to learn more about it.
Several interfaith organizations have had virtual and/or in person events to honor the overlapping of these holidays. Shalom Center, Sisterhood of Salaam-Shalom, Masjidullah, CAIR-Philadelphia, and Interfaith Peace Walk hosted a virtual iftar-seder April 10. The seder is a Jewish sacred meal in which the foods themselves embody the story of liberation from oppression. According to one of the hosts of the event, Ahmet Selim Tekelioglu, CAIR Philadelphia Outreach and Education director, this year, the Muslim lunar month of Ramadan and the Jewish lunar month of Nisan, with its eight-day festival of Passover, coincide. Joining the two meals was a spiritually moving way of bringing the American Muslim and American Jewish communities together in an historical moment when some in each community have defined the other as an Other.
I attended this virtual event while I broke my fast. And, that was the point - to break bread together, even on Zoom! What I appreciated about this event was not only how educational it was, but how interactive it was with the intention of working for social justice, too. Throughout this two hour event, there were many reflective questions and prompts like: “What concerns me about threats to our Democracy today is…” and “An area in my life right now where I feel stuck and could use more inner freedom/an expanding heart is…”
In an interfaith society like the USA, understanding the important holidays and rituals of others is a part of being a religiously literate person. Both Muslims and Jews are religious minorities. While politics in the Middle East can be divisive (and understandably so, as there is injustice and inequity for different groups), there is still much to celebrate and work together towards as religious minorities in the USA.
Ramadan Mubarak and Chag Pesach Sameach (Happy Passover Holiday)!
Learn more! Guiding principles from the Qur’an and Hadith: Passover in the Islamic Tradition
Nora Zaki is the Program Manager for Education and Resource Development at the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, where she holds responsibility for program and resource development, training, and membership support. Nora received a Master's of Divinity from the University of Chicago and holds a BA from the University of Florida in Arabic, Religion and Political Science. She has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and is fluent in Arabic. Nora is the founder of MyMuslimChaplain, which offers extensive chaplaincy workshops, services and other consultation.