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Faiths arrange High Holy unity

Yom Kippur observance to feature rabbi, imam, minister

By Marian Dozier
Staff Writer

September 20, 2001

When a Reform congregation hosts a Muslim imam and a Lutheran pastor as part of its Yom Kippur observance next Thursday, the world's three major religions will come together on the holiest day of the Jewish New Year.

It is a highly unusual occurrence, but organizers say the event is the perfect antidote to last week's terrorist attacks.

At 2 p.m. Sunday, Ibrahim Dremali, the imam, or spiritual leader, of the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, will join Rabbi Sam Silver of Congregation L'Dor Va-Dor and the Rev. Heiner Hoffmann, pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church, in a roundtable discussion at the Boynton Beach church.

"People turn to God because they don't understand what happened," Hoffmann said. "Sometimes, it's very important to turn to each other in understanding, so we can deal with the questions that come to our minds.... So we can learn together."

The interfaith discussion involving Judaism, Islam and Christianity was being planned long before last week's shattering events, but the tragedy has given new urgency to the idea of increasing sensitivity, if only locally, across the religious lines that divide.

In some ways, those divisions have become broader since the terrorist attacks. Arab-Americans and Muslims have come under increasing suspicion -- and even attack -- across the country, as America learns more about terrorists who consider themselves Muslims on a "holy war" of terror against the United States.

Sixteen Islamic leaders from across South Florida met with an FBI special agent in Miami on Tuesday night to discuss hate-crime reports and FBI assurances offenders would be fully prosecuted.

The meeting, called by the FBI, also allowed the agency to seek information the Muslim leaders might have about the alleged terrorists who had been living in South Florida.

Dremali made it clear those men were not followers of Islam. The fact they apparently drank alcohol and frequented topless clubs tells him that, because Islam prohibits alcohol use and adultery, he said. Plus, neither he nor imams of South Florida's other 18 major Muslim mosques knew or ever saw the men. We would know them, Dremali said.

Barry Silver, son of L'Dor Va-Dor's rabbi, Samuel Silver, said he expects frank discussion next week, and that no one would be there "to just be nice to each other.... We'll be getting into some gritty issues."

Dremali, for one, said he plans to discuss one thing for sure: the literal meaning of the term "jihad," now loosely translated to mean holy war.

"In Islamic terms, there is no Āholy war,'" he said. "We don't know that meaning."

Meanwhile, an interfaith Memorial Prayer Service is planned for 7 p.m. today at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Boca Raton. It is sponsored by the Greater Boca Raton Association of Religious Leaders.

Marian Dozier can be reached at mdozier@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6643.

Copyright © 2001, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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