SALT LAKE CITY An interfaith round-table event in the Western US state of Utah has gathered Muslims and Jews to promote love, harmony and understanding between followers of the two religions.
"The Jewish and Muslim communities here have always had a great relationship," Alan Bachman, the chairman of Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable, told Desert News.
"Hopefully, this is a microcosm for the world."
The event, held on Sunday, February 5, brought together Salt Lake Muslims and Jews on one table to share kosher and halal food.
It honored the Jewish Congregation Kol Ami and the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake as special guests.
The food, which was prepared in line with both Kosher and halal dietary laws, was meant to symbolize the similarities between the two cultures and faiths.
"Food tends to bring people together," said Karen McArthur of Kol Ami.
The feast crowned a month-long event organized by the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable to promote love, harmony and understanding among all faith traditions.
More than 20 events are planned to be held at places of worship throughout the valley to encourage increased religious understanding among the state's many faiths.
The Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable was created 10 years ago in anticipation of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Interfaith Week served as a time of prayerful reflection in preparation for welcoming the world to Salt Lake City and returns every February on the anniversary of the Games.
This year's event will conclude Feb. 26, with the annual Interfaith Music Tribute at the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
The event will feature special prayers by Buddhist, Celtic tradition, Christian Bell Ringers, Christian Gospel Choir, Hindus, Jews, Latter-day Saints, Muslims, Presbyterians, Sikhs, Thai Buddhist, and Unitarians.
Attendees say that sharing food encourages understanding among followers of the two faiths.
"The people that you eat with are the people that you share your life with," Rabbi Ilana Schwartzman said, adding that sharing food is symbolic in Jewish traditions for unity and love.
"There is so much strife in the worldâ¦We're trying to find commonality."
Muslims, who attended the event, shared a similar opinion.
"We are more the same than different," Kudiya, who lives in Draper, said.
"The human nature is the same everywhere."
Though there are no official figures, America is believed to be home to nearly eight million Muslims.
A 2010 report of the North American Jewish Data Bank puts the number of Jews in the US at around 6.5 million.
Interfaith ties between American Muslim and Jewish leaders have a history of successes.
Sponsored by The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, a New York-based nonprofit organization, the Twinning Mosques and Synagogues" initiative aims to promote ethnic harmony and build inter-group grassroots ties.
Since the initiative began in 2008, the Twinning Mosques and Synagogues brought together 50 Jewish and 50 Muslim congregations across the United States and Canada at one-on-one programs.
A group of high-profile Muslim and Jewish organizations participate in the initiative, including the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the World Jewish Congress (WJC), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims (CAJM).