On Nov. 17, some 20 devout Muslims from the King Fahad Mosque bowed and prostrated themselves as they recited the Isha, or night prayer, at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, with about 80 Jews watching the unfamiliar ritual. At the same time, in another room of the Reform temple, Jewish congregants participated in the Ma'ariv evening prayer, watched respectfully by a group of Muslims.
The separate but interwoven prayer sessions represented the beginning of a "twinning" movement under the theme, "Confronting Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism Together," bringing together 50 synagogues and 50 mosques across the United States and Canada.
At Temple Emanuel, the presidential election of Barack Obama was an implicit factor in the hopeful attitudes of several speakers. After saying that "together, Jews and Muslims can send a message to the purveyors of hate and bigotry," Usman Madha, director of the King Fahad Mosque, led some 300 attendees in a rousing, "Yes, we can; yes, we can" -- the Obama campaign's mantra.
At a post-meeting reception Adam Motiwala, 24, an information technology consultant whose parents emigrated from Pakistan, called the evening "awesome." At another table, Bobbe Salkowitz commented, "I think there is a feeling in this country that we can't push problems under the rug anymore. We have to be honest but reach out to each other at the same time."
-- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Iranian Muslim Media Attend Launch of Persian-Language Book on Holocaust
On Nov. 10, representatives of more than a dozen Southern California-based Persian-language news media outlets owned by Iranian Muslims gathered at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in West Los Angeles for the launch of a newly translated Persian-language version of "Night" by Nobel Prize-winning author Elie Wiesel.
His famous memoir, describing his imprisonment in several concentration camps during the Holocaust, was translated and published under the auspices of the L.A.-based Iranian Jewish organization, Graduate Society Foundation. The group published the book in Persian in an effort to combat the Holocaust denial campaign of Iran's current fundamentalist Islamic regime.
"These days, where the Iranian government is the only one in the world that has Holocaust denial as their stated official policy, it is significant that such a book is being presented for the Persian-speaking world to read and understand firsthand the truth about the horrors of Holocaust," said George Haroonian, a Los Angeles Iranian activist involved with the event.
Timing for the release of the Persian-language translation of "Night" coincided with the day after the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht.
Since 2004, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials have promoted an international propaganda war against the Holocaust in an effort to discredit the existence of the State of Israel.
During the past few years, the Wiesenthal Center, with the help of local Iranian Jews, has been reaching out to Southern California-based Iranian Muslim news media that transmit programming to Iran via satellite.
"The vast majority of Iran's population is under 30 years old, and they lack the knowledge to counter the state's campaign to deny the Nazi genocide against the Jewish people," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center. "As the regime in Tehran continues to threaten Israel, it is vital that the citizens of that country are armed with the truth."
Last year, the center provided "10 Facts About the Holocaust" in Persian on its Web site. In 2006, it welcomed members of the local Iranian media to tour the Museum of Tolerance in order to educate them about the Holocaust.
The preface to "Night" currently can be read in Persian on the center's multilingual Web site, www.AskMusa.org, with more selections to be posted soon. The Web site is designed to encourage Muslims to learn about and ask questions via the Internet from experts on Judaism and Jewish culture.
-- Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer
New Torah for AJU
Temple Adat Shalom donated a Sephardic-style Torah scroll to American Jewish University's Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. Apparently, the Aron HaKodesh got a little crowded when Adat Shalom and Temple Beth Torah, both Conservative synagogues, merged in July 2007.
(From left) Rabbi Aaron Alexander, Assistant Dean of Zeigler School; Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Dean of Zeigler School; Kent Ugoretz, former President of Temple Beth Torah; Andrea Nitz, President of Adat Shalom; Rabbi Toba August, rabbi of Adat Shalom; Rabbi Jay Strear, Vice President Development.