At 4:30 a.m., while most Yalies are still asleep — or pulling an all-nighter — Muslim students on campus are celebrating Ramadan, a monthlong Islamic holiday.
The Muslim Students Association has partnered with Jews and Muslims, or JAM — a new student group — this year to host Ramadan celebrations from Nov. 6 through Dec. 6. After hosting a kickoff dinner for over 140 Yale students last Friday, the two organizations have been hosting iftaar and sahoor meals everyday in the Bingham Hall prayer room.
Iftaar — which the Slifka Center for Jewish Life caters — is a standard Yale breakfast consisting of hot food, cereal, breads, fruit and juice, and is served at 4:30 a.m. After fasting for the day, the Muslim students break their fast at 4:45 p.m. with sahoor, a snack served at sunset before dinner begins. MSA also hosts a nightly taraweeh, a traditional Islamic prayer done during Ramadan nights.
It is important to Islamic culture that people start and break their fasts together during Ramadan, MSA President Sumeyya Ashraf ’04 said. She added that it is inspiring to see so many people come together every day to celebrate the monthlong holiday.
JAM co-founder Aatif Iqbal ’05 said the goal of this partnership between JAM and MSA is to bring different people together and have Jewish students and Muslim students gain a better understanding of each others’ cultures.
“I’ve been impressed with how open MSA has been,” JAM co-founder Josh Bendor ’05 said. “They’ve reached out to JAM. I was also pleased with Slifka and MSA coming together for Ramadan.”
This is the first year that the Slifka Center has sponsored the Ramadan celebrations. MSA and Slifka have negotiated to have meal transfers through the Slifka Center. Students observing Ramadan have transferred their lunches to the Slifka Center, allowing MSA to pick up packaged food for iftaar.
“It’s working out very nicely,” said Beth Kalisch ’03, vice president for education of Hillel. “As Jewish students, we understand that having religious dietary restrictions can make it difficult to eat in the dining halls.”
Kalisch said she was saddened in the past because MSA spent Ramadan dealing with logistical problems instead of focusing on the celebrations. She said that since the Jewish community has many resources in the kosher kitchen, she wanted other religious communities to share them so they can focus on their services rather than unnecessary logistical concerns.
Ashraf said she was pleased that approximately 50 percent of the people at the Nov. 6 kickoff dinner were non-Muslim.
“The dinner was meant to be so that Yale could share this occasion with us and to have everyone there to support us,” Ashraf said. “The fact that we shared this experience with not only Muslims but with the Yale community was very meaningful.”
Imam Zaid Shakir, leader of a New Haven mosque, spoke at the dinner about the importance of Ramadan and community values.
Leaders of MSA and JAM said they are planning a closing dinner to celebrate the end of Ramadan for Dec. 6.