(Photo courtesy Deutsche Welle)
Food can build many bridges
Each culture’s comfort foods are a testament to blending — we all have bread, we all have soup, we all have drinks. And they’re all reffective of regions, of families, of traditions.
Yet, as this story shows, food can build bridges to different faiths, too.
A butcher shop in Paris bridges Jewish and Islam faiths with its food, its staff and its service. The shop is reflective of its own neighborhood, a traditionally Jewish arrondissement that now has a burgeoning Muslim population. The shop employs both Jews and Muslims and even has a prayer room. It sells kosher meat, which, it turns out, is a savvy business move. Muslims looking for halal butchers appreciate the kosher certification.
The Jews and Muslims working side by side have built friendships and family ties — even in the wake of the deadly Paris attacks last fall.
One small but significant step the Boucherie de l’Argonne has taken is to close on Friday afternoons. The Muslim employees go to prayers and Jewish employees prepare for Shabbat. It’s a practical move that benefits both faith traditions.
The Brookfield Institute is devoted to building these interfaith bridges, whether through our regular “Living in a World of Difference” journeys for both youth and adults, or our journeys to the holy land and even a book club. We’re committed to the idea that we are here to learn from each other, to grow and love together.
Institute Program Director Karen Nell Smith has experienced firsthand the power of working side-by-side and sharing food in the midst of interfaith engagement. At one of the Institute’s four-day interfaith dialogue workshops, participants came together in the morning to prepare an apple crisp and enjoyed eating it over lunch later in the day.
“Preparing the food, setting the table and sitting down to eat together is an experience that integrates mind, body and spirit,” she suggests, "as participants in the dialogue engaged in this most basic act of fellowship and hospitality. We ate, shared stories, and laughed."
One of her colleagues in this work has remarked, "Doing something that brings everyone together on a very human scale … eating, working, doing something together … all set the table for more serious work.”
The employees of the Paris butcher shop are not just doing serious work, but learning and growing together too. The 19th arrondissement, where the shop is located, was where two of the Charlie Hebdo attackers grew up, so it’s a neighborhood that has seen its share of tension. And, while the employees of the corner meat market are well aware of their differences, they don’t see them as a wall. “Working with Jews isn’t a problem,” said Abdel Haq, a Muslim butcher. “We lived with Jews in Morocco." In fact, many of the employees and others in their generation, say it was specifically their upbringing that helps them relate to each other and that the current generation isn’t seeing those benefits."The only lesson I can offer is not to be afraid of the other person," said. "If I find myself next to a Jew at a cafe, we'll talk. We have to go toward the other.”
In other interfaith cultural news, please consider attending one of the movies in the Interfaith Film Series in Hartford, Conn. Details are here.