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London rabbi joins fast for Ramadan

Rabbi Natan Levy Image copyright Jewish news
Image caption Rabbi Levy (right) with a Sikh leader at an event that celebrated Muslims who saved Jews in the Holocaust

An orthodox Jewish rabbi is taking part in an Islamic fast to increase understanding between the two faiths.

Rabbi Natan Levy, 40, is taking part in Ramadan, a fast in which Muslims do not eat or drink between dawn and sunset for 30 days.

He told the Jewish News he was motivated to take part after a young Jew panicked when he saw a devout Muslim at the synagogue he attends.

The incident resulted in security having to be called.

'Stop hating'

Rabbi Levy, from Edgware, north London, said he was "frustrated" at what he saw as a lack of engagement between Jews and Muslims and wanted to "create a touchstone for conversation".

The rabbi, who is one of the leaders of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, an organisation which aims to connect local communities, said he hoped his efforts would show "that we Jews and Muslims can share, and fast, and feast and talk, and stop hating each other from behind closed doors".

He said he was not encouraging others to imitate him, but added that his actions had sparked "fascinating and heated and challenging" conversations among people since he began the fast on Sunday.

Rabbi Levy said he wanted to counter the many negative images created by jihadist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis).

Image copyright jewish news
Image caption Muslim leader Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra was among those at the Holocaust exhibition with Rabbi Levy last year

Just two days into the fast, Rabbi Levy admits it 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," he said.

"Yet I am 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 am still eating on Shabbat [the Jewish day of rest from Friday night until Saturday night] so there's a break for chicken soup.

"And also, we have a fast ourselves this month, the 17th of Tammuz, so what's a few more days?"

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 [the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people] now?"

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