An Interfaith Christmas

Photos (Left to Right): The annual Christmas setup at the shelter // Veal grilled in a barbecue for 8 hours in 2019 // Chef Ibrahim (from Egypt and a former cook at the United Nations) at dinner in 2018.

Word on the Street Issue 17, December 2021

In true Interfaith form, three congregations from different faiths come together to serve Christmas dinner to our guests each year. What began in 2011 as a last-minute response to a canceled meal has become an annual tradition. Members of Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel, the Islamic Center of Boise, and the Bogus Basin LDS Church will serve our guests again this Christmas, demonstrating how people from all faiths and walks of life celebrating together strengthens the community.

In 2011, Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel and the Islamic Center of Boise stepped in to serve Christmas dinner when our plans fell through, even though it’s a Christian holiday. That night our guests ate a delicious meal with foods from all over the world. A few years down the road, the LDS church joined in on the fun. “We nicknamed this annual event the MJM production for Muslim, Jewish, and Mormon volunteers,” Dr. Said Ahmed-Zaid, a Boise State engineering professor and member of the Islamic Center of Boise, wrote in the Idaho Statesman’s faith column in 2019. 

The congregations served a turkey dinner, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, hot cider, and apple and pumpkin pies. There were also non-traditional items such as a Kurdish rice dish with raisins and roasted almonds and a variety of Middle Eastern sweets served with North African mint tea. This year’s celebration is the 10-year anniversary and in addition to bringing desserts, members of the LDS church will decorate the entire shelter.

Rabbi Dan Fink of Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel said it makes sense to serve dinner not only as it allows Christian volunteers to celebrate the holiday with their families, but also because it challenges the idea that Jews and Muslims don’t get along. “There are a million stories in the news because of the Middle East and about us living in tension with one another, but really, we’ve worked together with the Islamic community here for a long time and it seemed like a natural partnership,” he said.

“I think there’s a really special value in just doing something together and doing something that serves the community. When we come together to serve a common purpose to do a greater good, I think it really does enable us to build bridges.”

Photo: Dining tables set up by members of the LDS Church in 2014.