Ramadan During Coronavirus

Ramadan During Coronavirus

Photo Credit: The Forward

Just as Jews and Christians experienced a strange emptiness as they tried to create a feeling of community during Passover and Easter through the use of video conferencing technology, now Muslims confront celebrating the holiest month on the Islamic calendar from a social distance as Ramadan begins sundown Friday, April 24. 

For the last 15 years, Ramadan for Rouzana Hares of Novi and her family has revolved around being with her community at the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills. The dentist and longtime volunteer at both her mosque and with IFLC helped plan Ramadan programming and events. Each day at the MUC during Ramadan there is a flurry of activity for all ages: from prayers to meals to special study sessions during the last 10 days of the month. 

“We would be at the mosque nearly every night with friends and extended family,” Hares said. “Now, this has all been taken away from us. We all feel lost on how we can maintain our spirituality and renew those connections and bonds of friends and family as we usually do during Ramadan.” 

Like Hares, thousands of Detroit area Muslims will try their best to observe Ramadan. Mass gatherings will be replaced with virtual ones, and many in the community will put in extra efforts to prepare and deliver Iftar meals to the elderly and those in need. 

Hares said that during the last 10 days of Ramadan – the holiest period where Muslims believe that Allah revealed the Koran to the Prophet Mohammed – Imam Mohammed Almasmari arranges special study sessions with the teens at the mosque, complete with his specialty-brewed tea. They study and socialize and even sleepover in the mosque, have an early morning pre-sunrise breakfast, and then go home. This is something that her son Yusuf will especially miss, she said. 

Still, MUC is planning to have zoom sessions over Ramadan. Also, the mosque is planning several charitable action events, such as preparing and delivering Iftar meals to seniors and first responders working on the front lines of the pandemic during the month. 

For more information, visit the mosque’s website at https://muslimunitycenter.org/

Guest Post: We are All Interconnected

The following is a guest blog post from Tokyo Interfaith Council member Rabbi David A. Kunin of the Jewish Community of Japan, which originally appeared on his blog, Lost in Translation, A North American Rabbi in Tokyo. 

The post contains a link to the 1-hour video recording of those around the world offering healing prayers in an array of languages and faiths – (including IFLC Chair Stancy Adams, IFLC President Raman Singh, and Muslim Unity Center Imam Al Masmari), during this time of sickness and uncertainty.  For your convenience, we listed a time stamp if you want to jump to a certain prayer. 

Former IFLC Board Member April Cook, who is now living in Toky0 since May of 2018, is one of the founding members of the Tokyo Interfaith Council, which was created in 2019.

For more information please visit our website tokyointerfaithcouncil.org

We welcome you to come back to this post whenever you are in need of some comfort as the weeks of this pandemic wear on. 

The coronavirus has served, with tragic results, as a reminder of the interconnectedness of humanity.  Nations have attempted to close their borders, hoping to isolate themselves from the pandemic.  Yet, like a steamroller, people, especially the elderly, in nation after nation have suffered the effects of this deadly virus.  Hopefully, one positive outcome of the pandemic could be a stronger sense of global interconnection and responsibility.

Up to the present, cooperation does not seem to the reaction of choice by most of the world’s nations.  Border after border has been closed, while the wolf is already in the chicken coop. While quarantine and social separation may indeed be the best way to slow the spread of the coronavirus, tribalism in all its aspects (especially of nation, class, ethnicity, and religion) will only exacerbate the suffering.  There has been a significant rise in bigotry and attacks against Asians across the globe. The wealthy have also been prioritized in the unfair distribution of testing and perhaps treatment.  Indeed, instead of working together, it appears that many nations are treading their own paths, focusing on their internal economic well-being, rather than the threat to human life and health posed by the COVID-19.    The virus has been utilized as an excuse to strengthen political agenda’s, having little to do with slowing its spread.  Instead of empathy, too often selfishness has been revealed through actions of nations and individuals.  This virus, and the fear it engenders, will be defeated only when the nations and peoples of the world come together in cooperation, taking joint responsibility for the world in which all of us dwell.

It is precisely a crisis such as this where the world’s religions can be at their best, both individually and jointly.  People across the globe are suffering and are also questioning why we face such times.
Let us be tentative in offering answers, as these most often are facile and appear self-serving. There is also the temptation to explain away  suffering of the innocent by connecting it to particular religious agendas. We should, however, be quick to offer words and prayers of hope and comfort.  We should be there for the suffering, with both physical and spiritual support.  We should be speaking out for empathy rather than selfishness.  Yet, as noted, COVID-19 is a worldwide crisis, where adherents of every religion (and no faith) in every community and continent are threatened.  All humanity needs comfort, and for those who seek solace in the Divine, that comfort can be best provided as the world’s religions join together, offering our unique prayers of healing and hope.

Such unity of purpose was demonstrated at a joint virtual interfaith service hosted here in Tokyo by the Tokyo Interfaith Council, of which I am a member.  Members of the Edmonton Interfaith Centre for Education and Action (Alberta, Canada) and the Interfaith Leadership Council of Detroit (Michigan, USA) also joined with us.  

Eleven prayer leaders representing diverse religious traditions –

Later Day Saints (6:00)

Baptist (11:00) 

Muslim (15:00) 

Jewish (18:00) 

Buddhist (29:00) and (38:00) 

Jain, (34:00) 

Sikh (42:00) 

Bahai (46:00)

and Catholic (50:00)

– from three countries, and attendees from many more joined “together” on their computers for an evening (or very early morning) of hope and comfort.  The service on the 21st had been long in planning.  It initially focused on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (sadly, the necessity of such a day is revealed yet again by the rise in bigotry and hatred against Asians in recent months).  As Tokyo and the world effectively closed up shop, the service was moved online and refocused on healing and hope.  What did remain, however, was the structure, which asked both for respect and authenticity.  Each tradition presented its prayer in its own words and language.  Though the prayers were each unique and called upon the Divine using many different names, they all reflected our universal care for humanity and the world in which we dwell.  Taken together, they could not help but offer comfort and renewed hope for the future.  It is just this unity of purpose which transcends but does not erase (but celebrates) diversity, which points to a path for hope in the future of humanity and the world built on a sense interconnection and joint responsibility.


Zoom into Passover with a Pre-Seder Interfaith Celebration 7:30 April 8

Just before Jewish families will sit down to their Seders – which may have far fewer people around the table because of Coronavirus restrictions – Detroit faith leaders from the Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Hindu communities invite the public into a Zoom room 7:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 8 for a pre-Seder celebration.


If you plan to attend, please sign in 10 minutes to the Zoom room by clicking here. 


The Zoom event is sponsored by the Interfaith Leadership Council, the Detroit Jewish Community Relations Council/American Jewish Congress (JCRC/AJC) and The Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity.


Moderators of the Zoom event include IFLC Chair Rev. Stancy Adams, Imam Achmat Salie, of the University of Detroit, David Conrad of the Archdiocese of Detroit, Bishop Glenn Plummer of Ambassadors for Christ Church, and Venkatesha Hollabbi from the Hindu Community of Canton.
The short program will include greetings from these leaders as well as texts, poems and some songs relating to the holiday that celebrates freedom, redemption and the coming of spring. Participants do not need to gather any additional texts or a Hagaddah before joining.


Adams said for Jews and African Americans, there are many lessons, comparisons, and contrasts to be gleaned from the telling of the Passover story at the height of this pandemic.


“There has always been a connection between African American and Jewish communities,” Adams said. “And now, as we learn to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are especially reminded of the plagues and the Exodus. At the time of Hebrew slavery, we learn in the Bible that it was the Egyptians and not the Hebrews who were embittered by the effects of the plagues. Now, we are all sequestered in our homes. Just like during the time of the Exodus, everyone was not affected. I believe everyone may experience the impact but not all will be infected by this current pandemic.”


AJC/JCRC Executive Director Rabbi Asher Lopatin said community faith leaders wanted to gather virtually across the religious, racial, and cultural spectrum to add words of support and wisdom from their religious traditions about the meaning of freedom.
“The Seder celebrates and discusses the Israelites redemption from Egypt,” Lopatin said. “As the Jews talk about freedom from slavery in Egypt, the African American experience of slavery and freedom resonates and continues to call for more connection and more understanding.”
Though right now, members of the black and Jewish communities cannot gather face to face to learn and connect as they had in live events from the recent past, Coalition co-director Mark Jacobs said the virtual event will continue to build on the coalition’s mission to create “more connection and understanding.”
“We are a partnership between the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC and the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity,” Jacobs said. “We see each other as brothers and sisters in the struggle against hate, and we are committed to promoting solidarity and speaking out against racism and anti-Semitism. Together we honor certain holidays, anniversaries and occasions, and Passover is one of them, as we come together to tell a common story of slavery to freedom and the responsibilities of us today to live up to the ideals for which our ancestors sacrificed so much.”


Timely Additional Resources:
Here are two texts that might be helpful this year to put the Seder and our Interfaith Seder in context:


Coronavirus Seder by Noam Zion


Coronavirus Supplement to the Haggadah





Ways to Volunteer in Michigan During COVID-19

Ways to Volunteer in Michigan During COVID-19

The Time Is Now

Michigan Needs You. Your Fellow Americans Need You. Help Us Save Lives.

You Can Volunteer in the face of Coronavirus

The state of Michigan is calling on health care professionals who can volunteer their expertise.

You can make a difference to fight and slow the spread of COVID-19 … to deliver life-saving care to someone suffering and in pain … to deliver hope to the person who feels alone.

All Michiganders can volunteer their compassion and commitment to fighting this virus, and saving health and lives. Your time, talent and donations will have an impact now.

Visit michigan.gov often; additional opportunities will continue to be added as needs are identified.

Coming to America through the Eyes of Women

Coming to America through the Eyes of Women

 In honor of International Women’s Day, WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Diversity and Outreach in MetroDetroit) will host an international and interfaith panel discussion

on immigration from a women’s viewpoint 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday,  March 8, 2020 at the Bloomfield Township Library, located on the corner of Telegraph and Lone Pine Roads.

Every panelist has a story of the hurdles they had to overcome to be U.S. citizens and how they have adjusted and built their lives in America.

They include:

Parwin Anwar, 62, born in Kabul Afghanistan and escaped the Soviet invasion by traversing over the mountains to Pakistan when she was six months pregnant. Six months later, she received refugee status and became a U.S. citizen in 2004. The retired grandmother of five worked for 23 years as a bilingual tutor for Macomb Intermediated School District.  She now lives in Sterling Heights  over the mountains to Pakistan when she was six months pregnant before arriving in the U.S. in

Audrey Sobel, Jewish, 76, emigrated from South Africa to Israel in 1970 before moving to the U.S. in 1976 with her physician husband, Jack. After another brief stint in Israel, they returned to the US in 1981. Audrey, who has a daughter, two sons, and five granddaughters, became a citizen in 1986.

Keiko Fujita, 47, is from Japan and came to the US in the late 90s. She and her husband lived in the San Francisco Bay Area before coming to Michigan. Keiko worked for Japanese companies for almost 2 decades. Her first job here in the US was an Administrative Assistant for Japanese expats, providing translations in Japanese and English. ‘

Fatou-Seydi Sarr, 45, a US citizen since 2011, finds love and strength inside her West African community in Detroit. Seydi is a social justice and human rights activist and the founder and executive director of ABISA (African Bureau for Immigration and Social Affairs) a nonprofit that helps African and Black Immigrants in Michigan and nationwide to know their rights, access resources, become socially invested and civically engaged. A Senegalese native, Seydi is a graduate of Wayne State University School of Social Work (BSW) and Marygrove School of Social Justice (M.A. SJ).  To Seydi, being part of her African Muslim community as an American woman means that “you no longer are on the sidelines, that you have a voice and can speak up and be engaged,” as she expressed on a video on her Facebook page.

Lucie Mills, 30, was born in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic. The physical and massage therapist first came to America as an aupair in 2015. Lucie and her husband Jon are Christian who attend Woodside Bible church, are part of small group and also serve twice a month in the community.

Maria Valencia, 45, first came to America on a student visa from Mexico in 1996. A trained firefighter and EMT, Valencia became a U.S. citizen in 2008 with a green card and works in Waterford as a cosmetologist.


Immigration Attorney Ellie Mosko will moderate the panel, as they share their experiences about immigrating to the United States with a brief overview of laws and practices behind how people immigrate to the United States and in some instances obtain paths to citizenship.

Prior to entering private practice, Ellie worked for a non-profit legal immigration service provider, offering free legal aid to the immigrant community throughout southeastern Michigan.

Ellie is an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Michigan Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and State Bar of Michigan. Ellie is also a co-founder and Director of the Jewish Bar Association of Michigan and serves on the Client Protection Fund Committee for the State Bar of Michigan

Through their varied stories and different paths to American shores, Mosko said there is a common thread and emotion that all her clients share: a sense of relief.

“These processes (to immigrate and attain U.S. citizenship) are often long and difficult.  When clients are finally able to achieve their goals in the United States, there is a sense of comfort and happiness. For those who have been fortunate to naturalize the sense of pride and joy is paramount.”