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Muslim and Jewish doctors joined forces at a Jamaica mosque Sunday to deliver free health screenings and consultations to the community for an event that those who put it together said did more than just deliver health care.
Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center said the event, the first of its kind in Queens, shows “a commitment to spread out peace and tranquility.”
Despite the religious differences between Jews and Muslims, Ali said “our humanity is the real connection between us. We are all human beings.”
Ali helped coordinate the event along with Rabbi Shlomo Nisanov of Kehilath Sephardim Bukharian Jewish Center of Kew Gardens Hills.
“I’m always happy to see that we can work together,” Nisanov said. “At the end of the day, we are more the same than we are different.”
The health fair was held amid tension in the Middle East following Israel’s boarding of a Turkish flotilla of ships off the coast of Israel that Israel said was carrying weapons to be used by militants in Gaza.
But Ali said the incident was not on the minds of the doctors during the event.
“We acknowledge the existence of problems in the world,” he said. “But our problems in America are not just problems in the Middle East.”
“This problem has been there since before I was born,” he said of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “We need to be sincere in finding a solution to the Middle East problem.”
He said the idea that Muslims hate Jews and vice versa is not true for the majority of the followers of both religions.
“I think we need to break down this ignorance,” he said.
Dr. Regina Smolyak, a Jewish opthalmologist who has offices in Rego Park and Brooklyn, checked the visions of the mostly Muslim participants in the health fair.
“It’s a great idea,” she said of the fair.
She said she sees a lot of Bukharian Jews in her Rego Park practice and that they are more susceptible to glaucoma and a neurological disease known as ocular progressive muscular distrophy. But she also sees Muslims and said 30 percent of her Brooklyn office is filled with Pakistani patients.
Walter Ruby, the Muslim-Jewish relations program officer for The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which co-sponsored the event, said leaders of the Bukharian Jewish community visited the Jamaica Muslim Center and decided to put on the health fair after they were warmly received at the mosque.
“It’s very good for us to build these ties,” Ruby said, noting the fair helped out those who did not have health insurance.
“If Jews and Muslims together can make a little dent in that, it’s very powerful,” he said.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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