Muggy summer days, where the heat of the sun seems to linger long past evening, are not entirely conducive to fasting. When walking outside is enough to cause you to break into a sweat, it is hard to imagine making it past mid-afternoon without so much as a sip of water. Yet, it was just this type of summer day that we encountered when the 17th of Tammuz and the holy month of Ramadan overlapped for a shared fast day between Muslims and Jews.
This fast day, meant to mark the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem in times long past, was made even more difficult by the dispiriting news emerging from Israel and Palestine in the present day. Yet, the office of Chaplaincy at Tufts, along with the Muslim Students Association and Hillel saw an opportunity to build a sense of spiritual companionship around our joint fast. So, that night as the sun set, we joined together at the interfaith center for a shared meal. Jewish students and Muslim students sat together, sipping on tea and juice, breaking bread and immersing in conversation. We learned from one another about the cultural and spiritual significance of our practices, and connected about our shared experiences as members of the Tufts community.
The acting Muslim chaplain for Ramadan, the inspiring Celene Ayat Lizzio, introduced the evening with a kavanah or intention. She mentioned that we, here, have little control over the events transpiring in the Middle East, but that we do have the opportunity to reach out to one another in a spirit of fellowship. For my part, I paraphrased the words of Isaiah that we read on Yom Kippur, words that demand that every fast impel us towards making the world more just. For all of us, this is the desired destination of the various spiritual paths we walk.
A couple of days ago, strolling across campus, I bumped into the student who had led the Muslim evening prayers, and I was able to wish him an easy fast. As a newcomer to Tufts, I hope that this is the first of many, many experiences being in dialogue and community with other faith groups.
Rabbi Jordan Braunig is the Director of the Tufts Hillel Initiative for Innovative Community Building. Jordan is a newly-minted rabbi from Hebrew College in Boston, who enjoys seeking out the spiritual significance of the world he encounters, whether through art or Torah or conversation or America’s Funniest Home Videos. Before coming on board full-time, Jordan was the Rabbinic Fellow at Tufts Hillel, where he learned that there is no better place to work. As the Rabbinic Director, Jordan will mentor, teach and, most importantly, learn from the amazing fellows who are a part of the Initiative for Innovative Community Building. Originally from Shreveport, Jordan left Louisiana to attend college at NYU and has been working his way up the NE corridor ever since. Jordan is a pickler, a Saints fan, a Scrabble-lover, and a Pa to two adorable kiddos.