(JTA) — Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons were among the guests at an event at the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles marking the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Consul General Sam Grundwerg hosted the event, organized Thursday night’s event with the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding at the consulate’s new headquarters.
Simmons, who chairs the foundation, led a discussion with Abdul-Jabbar and Muslim community activist Mahomed Akbar Khan about the importance of Muslim-Jewish relations and cross-cultural exchanges, according to a news release.
“In our practice of serving God, there is no more essential service that we can provide than teaching people to connect and see themselves in each other,” said Simmons, according to the release.
Also taking part were Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, and Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, as well as leaders in the Muslim and Jewish communities.
“This Iftar reception is a great opportunity to celebrate our common faith and common fate,” Schneier said, noting the meal that follows the daylong fast on each day of the monthlong Ramadan observance.
Last month, Schneier met privately in Baku, Azerbaijan, with the country’s president, Ilham Aliyev, during the fourth World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue. Schneier used the occasion to announce a new initiative, led by the foundation, to foster dialogue between American evangelical leaders and Muslim leaders from the United States and Muslim countries.
Schneier also discussed the idea with Azerbaijan’s ministers of foreign affairs and culture and tourism, and followed up with meetings with Azerbaijani officials and evangelical leaders in New York on May 26.
Schneier said that Azerbaijan, a Muslim-majority country, “not only protects the religious freedom of its Jewish and Christian communities but also promotes intercultural dialogue at the international level through the Baku process,” an intercultural dialogue launched in 2011.