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The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY ROSA DO­HERTY

AN IMAM, an arch­bishop, a rev­erend, and a rabbi went to a Seder. It sounds like the start of a joke but it hap­pened this week at Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner’s an­nual in­ter­faith Passover meal.

Lead­ers from the Catholic, Mus­lim, and Angli­can faiths were in­vited to the home of the Se­nior Rabbi to Re­form Ju­daism’s home to learn about the fes­ti­val and ask what she de­scribed as “ele­phant-in-the-room ques­tions”, as a way of build­ing re­la­tion­ships be­tween the com­mu­ni­ties.

Hav­ing ex­plained the Seder plate to her guests, who in­cluded Sheikh Khal­ifa Ez­zat, head Imam at the Cen­tral Lon­don Mosque, Rabbi Janner-Klausner said: “Please don’t hold back. The things you’ve al­ways wanted to ask, the time is now. No ques­tion is off lim­its, too stupid, or con­tro­ver­sial, this is an op­por­tu­nity for us all to learn.”

Kevin McDonald, Catholic Arch­bishop Emer­i­tus of South­wark, broke the ice with a ques­tion to Mus­lim guest Has­san Hoque about the Ko­ran. “Is it true chil­dren as young as 11 mem­o­rise it all? How is that pos­si­ble,” he asked.

Over the matzah and charoset, Mr Hoque ex­plained: “I learnt it by the age of nine and that is not un­usual. It is over 114 chap­ters, and hun­dreds of thou­sands of words and any imam is ex­pected to be able to quote you any bit.”

Mr Hoque, who was at­tend­ing his first Seder, said he was “ex­tremely taken” with the rit­ual el­e­ments that made up the meal. “We don’t have any­thing like this in Is­lam” he said. “It is re­ally nice to have a fes­ti­val where you pray and eat si­mul­ta­ne­ously.”

Rev­erend Emma Roth­well, part-time direc­tor of prac­ti­cal the­ol­ogy at Cam­bridge, did not hold back when ask­ing about the role of women in Is­lam.

Nizam Ud­din, trustee of the School of Ori­en­tal and African Stud­ies (Soas) in cen­tral Lon­don, jok­ingly re­sponded: “Oh, not a dif­fi­cult one to an­swer at all then. He con­tin­ued: “Se­ri­ously, I think it Guests de­bate around Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner’s Seder table

is com­pli­cated, and it is an is­sue for our com­mu­nity. It is some­thing I hope will change as younger gen­er­a­tions of Mus­lim women get more op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

He, too, was at­tend­ing a Seder for the first time. “What I love most about it is be­ing in a Jewish home.

“It’s not just an­other to­kenis­tic in­ter­faith ac­tiv­ity. Be­ing here makes it feels like how the Seder would be cel­e­brated across the UK. I’m look­ing for­ward to my next one.”

Pa­trick Mo­ri­arty, who is com­bin­ing his day job as JCoSS head­teacher with train­ing as a Angli­can vicar, was tasked with ex­plain­ing the role of the four chil­dren in the ser­vice.

“Us­ing the chil­dren as a way of talk­ing about our­selves is a won­der­ful way of break­ing down bar­ri­ers be­tween faiths and ed­u­cat­ing about cus­toms at the same time,” he said.

As the fi­nal piece of matzah was con­sumed, Rabbi Janner-Klausner ex­plained why she held the an­nual event. “It is

im­por­tant that peo­ple who come feel they have per­mis­sion to raise dif­fi­cult top­ics. Here, we can skip the usual po­lite­ness and be hon­est with each other.”

The Coun­cil of Chris­tians and Jews has held its own “Free­dom Seder” us­ing a spe­cially pro­duced Haggadah to re­flect on mod­ern-day slav­ery.

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