It's going to be a long week, filled with prayer and song. I'll be co-leading services on Wednesday evening, Thursday morning, Thursday evening, and Friday morning. And where will I be on Shabbat morning? Will I be sleeping in at last? (Well, I never get to do that anymore. I have a nine-month-old. "Sleeping in" is when he lets us stay in bed until the princely hour of seven, instead of waking us at six or earlier.)
No; on Saturday morning, after having spent several days in synagogue, I'm going to be... in synagogue! Not just because Shabbat Shuvah, the "Shabbat of repentance/return," is a particularly sweet and special Shabbat, coming as it does between the two High Holidays -- but also because my shul is doing something special to mark the fact that this year Shabbat Shuvah will fall on 9/11, and I want to be there when we do.
As I'm sure y'all know, there's a church in Florida which is planning to burn the Qur'an on 9/11 -- they're calling it International Burn-A-Koran Day. This is appalling to me on many levels, from the simple fact of burning books (could there be any more potent symbol of hatred and silencing?) to the fact that the book they plan to burn is another tradition's holiest text. (By the by, Nicholas Kristof's recent America's History of Fear puts recent Islamophobia into historical context and is very worth reading.)
In response to the rising tide of Islamophobia and especially to those who intend to burn the Qur'an on 9/11, my teacher Rabbi Phyllis Berman suggested that as Jews gather to worship on Shabbat Shuvah, we might consider reading from the Qur'an as a gesture of respect toward our sister Abrahamic tradition. At my synagogue, we typically gather for Torah study after services, around 11am. On 9/11, our text for sacred study will come from the Qur'an.
I took a class on the Qur'an a few years ago. (That class inspired me to try my hand at Arabic-Hebrew translation...) I'm looking forward to seeing which passages my rabbi chooses for us to study together, and how my community responds to them.
On September the 11th, demonstrations are planned in protest of Park 51, the Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan. One demonstration is slated to feature Geert Wilders, an ultra-right-wing Dutch politician who is on trial in the Netherlands for anti-Muslim hate speech. (For a sense of some of the anti-Park51 rhetoric, one resource is Media Matters' post What Fox has wrought: Anti-Park51 protests full of right-wing hate.) I am gladdened that on that day, my small synagogue in my small town will be quietly enacting a different relationship with Islam: one of mutual respect for fellow-travelers who are walking a different path toward God.