By Francesca Norsen Tate
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Muslims begin observing Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, on Friday, July 20. This year's Ramadan will demand great endurance, as it falls during one of the hottest summers on record.
Ramadan, whose start is determined by a combination of astronomical calculations and the sighting of the moon, lasts 29 or 30 days, depending on the lunar cycle. It is not seasonally based — each year, it begins about 11 days earlier.
During Ramadan, observant Muslims abstain from food, water, and pleasurable activities from dawn until sunset. Fasting, which is one of the three pillars of Islam, teaches self-control and inspires a closer devotion to God. Many Muslims point out that this self-control pertains not only to intake of water and nourishment, but also to behavior and temper, during a period when it is most challenging to remain charitable at all times.
Ramadan also emphasizes the centrality and joy of hospitality.
After sunset, Muslims break their fast by eating dates with water, engaging in prayer, and then inviting family, friends and community to an iftar, or break-the-fast meal. And, in recent years, Muslims here in Brooklyn, such as at the Dawood Mosque (Masjid Dawood) on State Street, have extended that hospitality to their Jewish and Christian neighbors. Moreover, the synagogues have reciprocated, hosting iftar dinners for Muslims at the Dawood mosque and the wider community.
Last year, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik of Congregation Mount Sinai and Rabbi Serge Lippe of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue joined Pastor Belen Gonzalez y Perez, Protestant chaplain at SUNY Downstate Long Island College Hospital, as guest speakers.
Two years ago, when Ramadan and the Jewish festival of Sukkot were concurrent, the Kane Street Synagogue invited the Dawood Mosque to a dinner. Borough President Marty Markowitz has hosted iftars for the past eight years.