Too often, we find that interfaith gatherings across the country are primarily led and facilitated by Christians. Ramadan, however, is a great way to connect with our Muslim neighbors where they set the table and lead the conversation. And who doesn’t love connecting over food?!

Through Welcome to My Table, we paired households with one another to virtually connect and share an Iftar meal (What’s an iftar?). These last two years we have loved hearing about the simple and profound stories of connection over Zoom — like how two pre-teens in different households discussed video game favorites or how two households shared recipes in advance so they could enjoy the same meal on the night they met virtually (read stories for 2020’s Welcome to My Table initiative).

While we at Shoulder to Shoulder don’t necessarily believe that sharing one meal will solve the problem of anti-Muslim discrimination in the United States, this intentional connection can lay the groundwork, and this initiative highlights what we see as a core ingredient to making change — relationships.

Here are some stories from Welcome to My Table 2021:

The Hossains (based in Virginia) matched with the Kotelmans (based in South Dakota). Laura Kotelman was recently in the Cohort of Courage with one of Shoulder to Shoulder’s partners, South Dakota Voices for Peace, and a participant in our Faith Over Fear training. The Hossains shared:

“We had a fabulous iftar with the Kotelmans last week, and I am so grateful you introduced us! I’m attaching photos from both of our ends of the screen. Laura made the whole experience very authentic. She cooked up 2 of our favorite iftar recipes — fruit chaat and chana chaat, and she included dates, samosas, and other treats on her table.

“Sharing our family iftar experience with another family during the pandemic, even virtually, was very meaningful for us, especially my children. We also learned about farm living in South Dakota, and we came away with a greater appreciation for all the work that goes into making honey.

“Thank you for organizing this great program and connecting people for good conversation and building friendship.”

In DC, two households met over Zoom. One of them shared with us how they, “bonded over the transient nature of DC friendships and how much DC has changed in the last 10 to 20 years. He’s lived in the district since 2003 and me since 2012.” They shared a laugh over him breaking the fast with a mini-Twix bar. “He said in college he couldn’t always find dates and the candy bars were more fun. So he just kept up the habit. He said he misses all the parties and picnics of Ramadan’s pre-pandemic.”

In California, Sharon, connected virtually with an Imam of a mosque that was started by Vietnamese Muslims 30 years ago. “I had never thought of Vietnamese Muslims. Last week our friend Zaid, from Folsom Islamic Center, had come to our after church Zoom coffee hour to speak to us about Ramadan, he pointed out that only a small percentage of muslims are Arabic. I think most of us, myself included, always assume that Muslims are from the Middle East.

“Our other guest Cecile, in Berkeley, shared the writings of several Islamic poets that she likes. She also spoke about her affinity for Islamic mystics like Sufism. Cecile has participated in many different faith experiences over the years. She lit a candle in the beginning and said a prayer in Arabic.

“We only met for about 40 minutes because the Iman had to lead prayer. He told us we could reach out to him with any questions and that we would always be welcome to visit his Mosque. He said that his Mosque was the first in Orange County 30 years ago and all the other Mosque’s in the county were created from it.”

Sehba and Lindsey’s families, based in Northern and Southern California respectively, both have a pre-teen and teens in their households. Sebha shared: “It was lovely meeting with Lindsey and her family. We had a lot of fun discussing our stories, some Ramadan facts and sharing our iftaar table with them. They had also gone out of their way to make sure the dinner menu was in line with iftaar items and they had samosas daal paneer while we had samosas fruits sherbet and shrimp biryani. The kids also shared their remote and in person schooling experiences. Overall it was a lovely evening and we were really happy to have experienced a WTMT night. Thanks for enabling this!”

To learn more about all our programs visit our website. ShouldertoShoulderCampaign.org

Shoulder to Shoulder is a coalition of 34 religious denominations and organizations committed to standing with American Muslims to advance American ideals