Ok, so I disappeared for a bit. I have good reason! I have been busy rescuing a pregnant cat just in time for her to have a litter of babies in my home. You can read all about it here. She had them November 25th and that has kept me quite busy, thank you very much.
But let's go back to my last post for a moment, because it was interesting..... my volunteering experience! In a mosque! Yes indeed, I took an old friend up on an offer (see more about the friend in the prior post) and I joined him at his mosque to help feed the masses, by working in a soup kitchen for the day. I even wore a hijab out of respect, and by doing so I gained some insight into the thinking of the Muslim women I worked along side...
First and foremost, it was a wonderful experience. I was very warmly received by everyone and would certainly volunteer there again. I enjoyed myself immensely and welcomed the opportunity to help tear down any misconceptions I may have about Muslims (especially as a Jew). That being said, I was also assumed to be Muslim because of the hijab, and so I saw a candid side to my new Muslim sisters.
At one point in the conversation (while we worked away making sandwiches) one woman was telling another about her job; seems the company she had been working for had recently been taken over by another company, and at that point all the employees were asked if they wished to stay or wanted to be packaged/bought out. So far so good, right? Then she said to her friend that naturally she took the package because she didn't want to work for a Jewish company.
I'm pretty sure my spine stiffened up as I felt the remark tweak me in a weird way. I wouldn't say I was angry.... so much as curious. What would happen if she did work for a "Jewish company"? Did she think she would get 'ripped off' by the Jews, somehow? Did she not like what values said company might have? Did she really dislike Jews THAT much?? I was confused by this statement but decided to simply be an observer to what was going on; I didn't feel like it was my place to start a debate, nor did I particularly care to engage in one. I just found it interesting. She said it so matter-of-fact-ly.... not even with a tone of hate or venom. It just sounded like.... naturally she wouldn't want to work for Jews! Duh!
Then came the time for us all to gather as the homeless and hungry began filing into the hall for their free meal; it was sort of a pep talk and small prayer to Allah all rolled into one. It was interesting to note that the majority of people coming into the mosque to eat were not, in fact, Muslim at all. Causasian... Chinese... all races came through the doors, though mostly Chinese. And one of the young girls (about 13 yrs old) turned to me as these people went by and the dialogue went a little like this:
girl: "Why are the Chinese people here?" me: "Because they're hungry." girl: "We'll feed them even though they're not Muslim??" me: "Yes. I believe the point here today is for you to learn love and tolerance for all races/religions."
And that was the part that struck me as odd about the whole experience; here were these wonderfully giving people.... here to do right by their God and serve humanity..... but they often seemed to be missing the point. It completely baffled me! Work for Jews and feed the Chinese?? Unthinkable!
Like I said, it was a learning experience and I will more than likely do it again. It has enriched my life and outlook and I'm sure there's work to be done still on my own perceptions. At least we were all there for the same reason, and on that day, people didn't have to go hungry.
Before I go, let me share one other interesting thing.... A few days after volunteering at the mosque I was driving around when I accidentally picked up someone else's iPod broadcast on my radio (it can happen when you have it tuned to a certain "blank" station and don't have your own iPod playing.... you hear what someone else is playing if they are driving near you). And what I heard was this song.... and I thought it was really quite catchy and I enjoyed it... and it reminded me of my volunteering time.