September 20, 2007
Briefs: New chairman at Jewish Federation, AskMusa reaches out to Muslims
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Besides Arabic and English, the site's languages include Farsi (Iran), Urdu (Pakistan) and Bahasa (Indonesia).
A key feature is a question-and-answer forum, which, in the first few days, elicited such queries from Indonesia as "Why do Jews claim to be the chosen people?" and "Islam has 99 names for Allah, so how do Jews describe God?"
Cooper, who has testified before Congress on cyberspace propaganda, conceived his idea while participating in a recent conference on religious tolerance in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, and after frequent meetings with imams and other Muslim leaders.
"I was struck by how little even well-educated Muslims knew about the basics of Judaism," Cooper said. "I was asked if Jews ever pray and what the Torah has to say about the Koran. I had to explain that the Torah preceded the Koran by thousands of years."
In Muslim countries, "it is the young elite that is Internet savvy and it is fed a steady diet of anti-Jewish defamation," Cooper said. "We have to counter such lies and it is a huge error to assume that all Muslims, especially those who take their religion seriously, swallow the official line."
So far, no Islamic country has attempted to block AskMusa, Cooper said.
-- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
New Torah Ark Unveiled at Nessah Synagogue
On Rosh Hashanah, more than 1,000 Iranian Jews at Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills cheered the unveiling of a new hand-carved wooden hechal (Torah ark), which was recently completed after a year of construction. Nessah board member Abraham Shofet funded and organized the project and said it is a replica of one in Amsterdam constructed in 1675.
"We chose to copy the design of the Portuguese Synagogue, because we wanted to find a hechal that was most suitable for the classical type architecture that matches our synagogue's building," said Shofet, brother of Nessah's Rabbi David Shofet and son of the late Hacham Yedidia Shofet, spiritual leader of the Jews in Iran for nearly six decades.
Also on hand for the event was Nathan Moked, general secretary of the Portuguese Synagogue. "I would like to see a kind of exchange between our community in Amsterdam and the Iranian Jews here at Nessah, now that we have something in common that connects us," he said.
Shofet said additional Nessah members donated the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments above the ark, as well as other features. Plans will begin after the High Holy Days for construction of a tevah, a secondary bimah at the center of the main sanctuary, which also will be modeled after one in the Portuguese Synagogue.
-- Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer
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