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Rabbi Wittenberg's speech at Deen Fest 2009

Salaam Aleicum, Shalom Aleichem, Good Evening
It’s a pleasure to be here and an honour to be here! This is the most wonderful celebration!
We as Jews and Muslims face the same issues, encounter similar suffering, feel similar pain, appreciate similar blessings, share the same joys.
This morning I was at the cemetery; then I went to a baby-naming in my community; yesterday I was at a feast marking the close of a week of wedding celebrations.
Judaism sanctifies these occasions and makes them special; Islam sanctifies these occasions and makes them special. That’s why when we do come together, we usually feel so at home with one another.
We both uphold the dignity of each person as God’s special and unique creation. We both believe in the importance of the family and the bonds of loyalty and love within it. We both care about educating our children to lead good and faithful lives within the traditions of our ancestors and to contribute to the world around them. We both believe in the deep value of community, especially in a western society which so often isolates people and leaves them lonely and lost and longing for the wider and deeper connection which congregations of faith, like ours, can best provide. We both hold that the world about us, the light of the sun and the brightness of the moon, the air we breath, the trees, the birds, the animals and all people, are God’s creatures, and we should honour and care for them as partners with our God.
We live the same kinds of lives and we live them side by side as part of the same society. We are not in the age of the ghetto; it is not far from mine home to yours, or from yours to mine. We live in the same streets, shop in the same supermarkets, travel on the same transport. How important it is then, that we should know one another. I believe the Q’uran teaches that God made the peoples different so that we should come to know one another. The Torah teaches that when God asked Cain, the first murderer, where his brother Abel was, he answered, ‘I don’t know; am I my brothers’ keeper?’ Ever since, ‘I don’t know’ has been the prelude and precursor to fear, distrust, and a lack of that responsibility which our sacred books teach us that we must take for one another. We are here to know, and care, for and about, one another.
In this open society, what befalls one will befall the other. We thrive together, or we all fail; we care for each other or the humanity of us all is diminished. We must fight racism and intolerance together; we must celebrate freedom and the glory of daily life together.
We must not let fear and distrust keep us apart. We must not let ignorance of each other breed suspicion and doubt. We must not import into this country the angers and despairs which have so tragically become part (though even then only part) of the relationship between our peoples elsewhere on this earth.
No! Your God is my God; your love of life is my people’s love of life; the holiness of your faith must enhance the holiness of mine; and my freedom finds its deepest meaning in upholding yours.
Thank you for including me in your celebrations today.
Shalom