I’m a member of the St Albans Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom.
The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom brings together Jewish and Muslim women all over the world.
We meet, we eat and we hear about each other’s lives. A get together tends to precede or follow a festival — Muslim or Jewish. We discuss the festival, share dishes traditional for that celebration and talk about our respective traditions.
Last year we broke the Ramadan fast together. (Well, they fasted and we shared their meal.) It was really interesting to hear what Ramadan is all about , what it means to them; how they manage the logistics of eating only between sundown and sunrise and what foods they eat.
I felt ashamed of the annual Jewish moanfest over a relatively paltry 25 hours sans food and drink, when Muslims manage an entire month of deprivation. We watched them pray — a beautiful and intimate moment — then they broke their fasts on medjool dates before we feasted on a variety of dishes — from savoury pastries to syrup soaked cakes.
At the end of that Ramadan we were invited to a fabulous Eid family party that my children still talk about. The food was bright and colourful, with tables of Ottolenghi-style salads; borekha-style pastries and other other treats. There were iced biscuits in crescent moon shapes that my children adored.
Food is every bit as special to our Muslim sisters as it is to us and it made a perfect focus point for us all to meet over.
There are Salaam Shalom groups around the world and they aren’t the only people using food to build bridges.
At the start of June, a group of more than 160 people sat down at Clore Tikva school in Redbridge to launch another foodie initiative to connect Jewish and Muslim families.
This meal was kicked by Laurie Rosenberg and Lenna Rosenberg (Head teacher at the school) and Jordanian chef, Batool Tawfiq. They had dined together at Fresser favourite and Israeli-run Honey & Co, and came up with the notion of Peace on a Plate.
At the inaugural dinner, the school choir sang as did a Moroccan trio while guests, including local MP’s, rabbi’s and iman’s broke bread together.
Tawiq also demo’d her favourite recipes for fast-breaking foods.
It’s not just here that we’re forging foodie friendships. Sabra-side, a lovely lady called Futna Jaber (who appeared at Gefiltefest in June) has also been attempting to build bridges over the dinner table. Arab Israeli mother of two, Jaber is an Israeli food celeb. She runs a hummus bar on Tel Aviv’s Shenkin street with husband Akram and was a runner-up in Israeli Big Brother several years ago. She hosts Israeli cookery show Opening the table with Futna and has written cookery book, From Futna’s Kitchen.
Her contribution to Arab/Israeli relations has been as co-founder of social action project, Open Table Open Heart, through which Arab and Israeli families host each other for dinner.
I’m not going to get heavy here, but I’m loving how food and Friday night can be the first step to change.