Exclusive: The Orthodox Rabbi fasting for Ramadan

An Orthodox rabbi is joining millions of Muslims around Britain in observing the month-long Ramadan fast, writes Justin Cohen.

Rabbi Natan Levy – who will break from the fast to enjoy Shabbat meals with his family – hopes his unprecedented act will help to increase understanding of Islam within Anglo-Jewry.

The rabbi, who is the Board of Deputies’ interfaith consultant, told Jewish News: “I’m not fasting as a prelude toward Islamic conversion. I’m just trying to understand how another faith works and maybe create a touchstone for conversation.”

Rightous Muslim Exhibition (4)Saying he is “frustrated with how little my community is willing to engage with Muslims”, he added: “I hope this gets us thinking and talking as a community about two things; the hungry poor in our midst, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Ramadan is a time for charity and hungry people care about hungry people.

“And secondly, that we Jews and Muslims can share, and fast, and feast and talk, and stop hating each other from
behind closed doors. I want my children to know that their father is fasting with over one billion people for this long Ramadan, that God speaks to others”.

In conjunction with the Board, he plans to tweet each day of the fast on the language links between Hebrew and Arabic. Rabbi Levy was spurred on to join the fast – during which followers refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to sunset for 30 days – after one young congregant at the synagogue he attended panicked at the sight of a devout Muslim guest in the Friday night service who had a head covering, leading to security being called. The minister wants to counter the negative images created by ISIS and other groups.

Just two days into the fast, Rabbi Levy admits the undertaking is already proving a challenge. “A Muslim colleague tells me it gets easier after the second week, which feels like a really, really long time away. I’m doing this out of choice. Imagine the nearly one million people in the UK who have nothing to eat except handouts from a soup kitchen or food bank?

“I’m still eating on Shabbat, so there’s a break for chicken soup! We also have a fast ourselves this month, on 17 Tammuz, so what’s a few more days?”

He said he was not urging others to follow his lead and admitted that family and colleagues had shown “not the slightest” interest in doing so.

But he said: “The conversations emerging in the office, on the train, in shul, have been fascinating and heated and challenging and that – I hope – is all for the good.”

Rabbi Levy added: “Beyond the inevitable question of why would a Jew fast for Ramadan, my children’s main question was: ‘Will the imams fast for Yom Kippur now?’”

  • Shalom1

    Highly commendable and why are they not more people like this. We spend so much time arguing and fighting we forget both faiths lived in peace for hundreds of years, Spain being just one example.

  • DJ C

    Noble attitude, but I doubt that this is what’s required to quell the rhetoric being spewed by both sides, in this country and others. Good on him though

  • richard

    Rabbi is doing a great thing to bring children of god, sharing a holy time in the world today.

  • Lord Kitchener

    Here’s some other “touchstone[s] for conversation” from the Koran that the good rabbi may wish to discuss with his new pals: “do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends” [Sura 5:51]; “And well ye knew those amongst you [Children of Israel]…We said to them: “Be ye apes, despised and rejected” [Sura 2:65]. From the Hadiths: “May Allah curse the Jews and Christians” [Sahih Bukhari 1:8:427]; “Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews” [Sahih Muslim 41:6985].

    • asherpat

      Thanks God for the Gharqaq tree!
      This rabbi is indicative of the suicidal tendencies of the modern liberal North London Jews that fail to see the existing hatred and the ingrained anti-Semitism of the Muslims in Britain. The same “Board of Deputies” that caused so much damage to the image of Israel. They are the modern Fifth Column, professing love to “Israel”, but it is “Israel not as we know it”

  • Kirana

    Yom Kippur is what Muslims call Day of Ashura. So actually, yes they can, and they probably already do, in recognition and respect for the same event.

    Ibn Abbas narrates that Muhammad came to Madina and saw the Jews fasting on the tenth day of Muharram. He asked, “What is this?” They said, “This is a good day, this is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemy and Musa (Moses) fasted on this day.” So he fasted on this day and told the people to fast. [Bukhari & Muslim - i.e. considered a "reliable narration"]

    Notice this particular narration I chose has full context of what was said and done. I’m sure the rabbi indeed does discuss many things with his colleagues across the faith lines, but men and women of true knowledge understand context, its absence, and the effect on reliability of any particular interpretation, and agree or disagree with amity and respect. Teachers discuss with the aim of attaining truth, whereas followers discuss with the aim of attaining personal superiority. True of any discipline of knowledge.