Muslims, Jews gather at Denver mosque to help feed the hungry


Article in Denver Post on 11/18/2012.

Jews and Muslims were in a sticky situation Sunday at the Northeast Denver Islamic Center — they were up to their elbows in peanut butter and jelly as they made roughly 1,000 sandwiches to hand out to people on the streets.

“Feel at home,” Imam Abdur-Rahim Ali told his 50 or so guests. “This is a wonderful thing.”

The newly formed crew immediately settled into their sandwich production and happy chatter. They didn’t discuss the violence, tension and deaths in Israel and Gaza.

“We’re not here to talk about that. We’re here to build relationships that will let us talk about things like that,”
said Rabbi Stephen Booth-Nadav of Wisdom House Denver, a center for multifaith engagement.

“I don’t think God wants us to be killing each other,” he said. “I think he wants us to be feeding each other.”


Alma Ortiz Sayaya, 9, is neither Muslim nor Jew. Her mother, Louise Ortiz, said they heard about this gathering and wanted to be there “to see how one person can make a difference.” Alma already divides her allowance among spending, saving and charity.

Other partners in this interfaith event to benefit Denver’s homeless and hungry were the American Jewish Committee, the Multicultural Mosaic Foundation and The Peanut Butter Plan, a grassroots movement to help feed the poor.

The Denver event was timed in concert with an international initiative of the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding called the fifth annual Weekend of Twinning. The foundation says imams and rabbis, mosques and synagogues, in 17 North American cities and 26 countries cooperate annually to improve human relations.

“With all the hardship in the world, I want to focus on what is good — our commonalities with our Jewish and Christian neighbors and friends,” said volunteer Pamela Altunsoy, a Muslim whose 4-year-old daughter Miriam was about to eat the nearest PB&J.

“We’re putting our beliefs into action,” Altunsoy said. “Feeding the hungry is a great way to do this.”

Sunday’s goal had been modest — to make 500 sandwiches. People brought jars and loaves. King Soopers donated more makings plus a van full of bakery goods to distribute, said Peanut Butter Plan leader Zev Barnett.

“We’re going to have a lot more than 500 sandwiches,” Barnett said. “I’m excited. We’ve been (making sandwiches to give out) for about 13 months in Denver. This is one of our best turnouts.”