Rabbi Michael Beyo and Imam Faheem Arshad

Rabbi Michael Beyo and Imam Faheem Arshad will discuss the commonalities shared by their  faiths in a free public forum next Sunday at the East Valley Jewish Community Center.

A Chandler rabbi believes he can show people that despite some significant differences, major religions in the world have more in common than people might think.

And to show those commonalities, Rabbi Michael Beyo, executive director of the East Valley Jewish Community Center, is starting a series of conversations with leaders of four major faiths in the Valley.

He’s starting the series with Imam Faheem Arshad of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

The imam and the rabbi will appear together at 6 p.m. Sept. 15 at the center, 908 N. Alma School Road, Chandler. 

Future will involve faith leaders from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as the Sikh, Lutheran and Baha’i communities.

Conversations with a Rabbi are free, but reservations are required. Guests can register at evjcc.org/conversation.

“Fear comes when we don’t know about the person that stands across the table from us,” Beyo said, citing the numerous acts and rhetoric that have raised the level of antisemitism and hatred against different religious, ethnic and racial groups in the country in recent months.

He said he wants to “tear down the walls of ignorance.”

“When we tear down the worlds of ignorance, then we’re not afraid of each other and then we can build communities together,” Beyo said, explaining:

“We are not saying that we don’t have differences. We have differences. That’s why we have different religions. That’s why we have different faiths. But ultimately, we have so much more in common and we’re all here together to share what we have in common, to share all of our differences and build stronger communities.”

Arshad echoed Beyo in hoping the talks will help both religions.

“Living in a society where there’s so much ignorance and so much hate, it is through conversation that we can break the barriers and we can build bridges together living in the communities,” Arshad said. 

Beyo says these events will not be centered around theological questions, but rather topics that affect everyday life.

“We are doing a two-prong approach,” Beyo said. “One approach is that we are inviting these faith leaders to talk about their faith, religion and culture to our community. 

“The second approach is that we’re going to have these conversations between a faith leader and myself on various topics that are not necessarily religious in nature... The first topic that we will discuss on September 15 between myself and the Imam is how to be a minority religion.”

Arshad encourages individuals from both religions attend the event.

“We are having a collaborative means in trying to educate the people around us,” Arshad said. “This is something that we can both benefit from. We can educate ourselves of what the Jewish community and what the Islamic community is doing together to help the community around us.”

Beyo said the series has been in development for less than a year and was made possible by the East Valley Jewish Community Center’s good relationships with other faith leaders.

The  East Valley Jewish Community Center is also hosting an Interfaith Series monthly where faith leaders will discuss their faith’s history, tenets and current challenges. These events cost $14 with a kosher lunch following the presentation. 

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