TORONTO — Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb doesn’t just talk the talk of peaceful reconciliation between Muslims and Jews, she literally walks the walk.
Fateeha Aftab, left, and Ezra Greenspoon walk with the peace dove at the recent Danforth Multifaith Peace Walk. [Barbara Silverstein photo]
The Berkeley-based rabbi, who serves as the spiritual leader of the
Danforth Jewish Circle (DJC), is the co-founder of the Muslim-Jewish
She recently brought her brand of reconciliation between Muslims and Jews to Toronto’s east end, where she co-lead the inaugural Danforth Multifaith Peacewalk.
This event, which was co-sponsored by the DJC, the Pakistani Community Centre (PCC), the Madina Masjid Islamic Centre and the Glen Rhodes and Eastminster United churches, drew more than 200 people from the participating congregations.
Before the walk, the group gathered at Glen Rhodes United Church – it is also home to the PCC – on Gerrard Street East, in the heart of Little India.
In his welcome speech, Rev. Douglas DuCharme, the minister of Hope United Church, credited Toronto-Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns, who was in attendance, for bringing the Muslim and Jewish communities together.
Pakistani community elder Abdul Aziz blessed the group and chanted from the Qur’an. Imam Syed Zaki Baqri of Pickering told the group that peace was a gift from God. “The wisdom of God is to know different nations.”
Rabbi Gottlieb said that she, along with her U.S. peace dialogue partner, whom she referred to as Haji, had initiated the Muslim-Jewish Peacewalk in the spring 2002 as a means of fostering reconciliation between Muslims and Jews in response to Sept. 11.
To date, there have been similar walks in 17 other cities across the United States and Canada.
“To pursue peace is a religious obligation,” Rabbi Gottlieb said. “Walking together is sacred. It is a an act of public witness that people of different faiths can live together in peace.”
She urged people to mingle with others from different faith backgrounds.
A procession, which formed behind people carrying a huge white, cloth peace dove and placards advocating peace, made its way west along Gerrard Street, past stores selling incense and spices and boutiques displaying silk saris.
The walkers proceeded north on Greenwood Avenue en route to the Madina Masjid Islamic Centre on Danforth Avenue, passing through a neighbourhood where restaurants and grocery stores offering hallal meat abound.
Shoes were removed and head-scarves were donned before the group entered Madina Masjid, the mosque attended by many PCC members.
People were ushered upstairs to a large second-floor reception room, where they were introduced to congregation president Hanif Shaikh and Imam Abdullah Nooruddin. The imam spoke about Islamic values and beliefs.
Following some brief words from Beaches-East York MPP Michael Prue, people were served vegetarian samosas and a milk sweetened and coloured with red-rose syrup.
The procession then continued west to Eastminster United Church – it also serves as the spiritual home of the DJC – where participants were welcomed by Rev. Sarah Bercier-Miller and Rev. Daniel Bogert-O’Brien.
After Cantor Lisa Kent’s singing of Avinu Malkeinu and Oseh Shalom, the interfaith service culminated with participants dancing around the sanctuary hand in hand.
They celebrated the walk with a communal feast that included plates of bagels and cream cheese, and platters overflowing with spicy potato samosas. A trio of DJC musicians playing jazz and show tunes added to the festive mood of this gathering.
Karen Robbins, a DJC board member and the event organizer, said she was thrilled with the outcome. “There was so much goodwill and respect. To see dancing in the aisles with everyone holding hands, I could not have hoped for more.”
She said planning for the event began six months earlier when she and fellow DJC member Avrum Jacobson approached Tabuns, their MPP, about finding a way to start a dialogue with the local Muslim community. Tabuns introduced them to the PCC leaders Tasleem Rias, vice-chair of Asian Communities Council of Canada and council chair Farukh Qazi.
“They were very open,” recalled Robbins. “And they were so hospitable. Every time we met, they provided Kashmiri tea and samosas, even during Ramadan when they were fasting.”