DC-area rabbi and imam offer message of unity and peace amid war in Middle East

Jewish and Muslim communities in the D.C. region and around the globe are reeling as the Israel-Hamas war escalates.

“This situation is not just affecting those in the immediate area, it’s affecting those around the world,” said Imam Talib Shareef with The Nation’s Mosque in D.C. “Many of us have a relationship with that area, relatives — really on both sides of the fence — friends, faith communities.”

Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist group that controls Gaza, launched a deadly surprise attack in Israel on Saturday, prompting Israel to launch retaliatory strikes on Gaza in an ongoing war that’s claimed thousands of lives.

“Hamas, their actions ought to be condemned, completely condemned,” Shareef said.

Rabbi Aaron Miller, of the Washington Hebrew Congregation, said the world needs to unify against hate, and that he’s praying for clarity for how to handle this situation. He also said he’s trying to offer people hope.

“We’re going to pray for a lasting peace, not a short-term peace, but a peace that can maintain for Israel and our Palestinian neighbors for, please God, generations to come.”

Miller said a lot of Jewish people feel lonely right now.

“To see this happening in Israel, it feels like it’s happening to family.”

Miller said his congregation and others around the world are on edge, either because of Hamas or some other organization that may engage in further violence.

Shareef said he’s urging people to focus on the future to avoid more bloodshed.

“The past and the present that we’re seeing has not served us well,” Shareef said. “This is not sustainable.”

Safety is even more important right now, Miller said, because people want to gather and find peace in community. The rabbi urged anyone who is feeling grief to reach out to others who understand, and he asked anyone who is not Jewish to be a friend to people they know who are.

“Reach out with kindness, with compassion with an open ear and an open mind to hear what it feels like to be Jewish right now.”

Miller said the Washington Hebrew congregation is currently studying the book of Genesis in the Bible. He said it’s a story of chaos and God bringing order by saying, “let there be light.”

“And that’s what we can do at this heartbreaking time; we can affirm that there is light, that we can bring light to each other, that we can bring healing to each other.”

WTOP’s Scott Gelman and Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.

Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson is an Associate Producer and Web Writer/Editor at WTOP. After graduating in 2019 from James Madison University, Thomas moved away from Virginia for the first time in his life to cover the local government beat for a small daily newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio.

Kyle Cooper

Weekend and fill-in anchor Kyle Cooper has been with WTOP since 1992. Over those 25 years, Kyle has worked as a street reporter, editor and anchor. Prior to WTOP, Kyle worked at several radio stations in Indiana and at the Indianapolis Star Newspaper.

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