Northern Virginia Muslims, Jews Set Example for Middle East

Synagogue opens doors to Muslims for prayer

An unlikely relationship between different faiths is setting an example in northern Virginia.

The region's fast-growing Muslim population is running out of room to pray, so one Reston synagogue opens its doors to them.

"It's unusual, but it reflects well on both of our faiths," said Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk, of Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation. "Both Islam and Judaism adhere to the teachings of Abraham, who was known in the Bible and in the Koran for hospitality."

"There's more in common than the differences," said Imam Khalid Iqbal, of All Dulles Area Muslim Society. "There's so much in common coming from the same root -- Abrahamic faith, from prophet Abraham and then down to his descendants."

Because there is no mosque nearby -- in part because building a mosque can take a long time -- the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation has welcomed Reston-area Muslims on Fridays for about a year and a half.

"I think it's more than just physical," Iqbal said. "It's people-to-people interaction. I think physical space we could have gone and rented from anybody. But it's the relationship that we have developed with them."

Today, Israel's first female rabbi was invited to attend the prayer service. Rabbi Kinneret Shiryon learned of the relationship through a newspaper in Israel and sees it as a model for the Middle East.

"It's significant because it took place in the United States where pluralism and religious pluralism is taken for granted, and in Israel, it's not something we've developed on the same level," she said.

The broader goals are to further dialogue -- especially with respect to Middle East peace -- and to work on projects together like helping the homeless and a humanitarian mission to the Middle East.

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