Mixing it up in Motor City mosque

Detroit Muslims, Jews and Christians join together in health-care drive.

Detroit Interfaith Health Fair 311 (photo credit: Rachel Malerman)
Detroit Interfaith Health Fair 311
(photo credit: Rachel Malerman)
An interfaith group of Muslims, Jews and Chaldeans teamed up on Tuesday to provide health-care services to the working poor and those without medical insurance at the Muslim Center Mosque and Community Center in Detroit.
“We’re helping the people who show up to this clinic and fulfilling a need within the community,” said Robert Cohen, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Detroit.
“We’re also trying to build trust and build relations between the Jewish and Muslim communities in the city.”
The Interfaith Health Fair was organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Detroit and the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan and ran for four hours on Tuesday afternoon.
Around 100 doctors, nurses, social workers and medical students performed standard medical screenings, took blood samples, recorded patients’ medical histories, and provided them with guidance on any necessary follow-up, through a one-onone consultation with a physician.
There are approximately 68,000 Jews living in the Detroit metropolitan area and anywhere between 150,000-200,000 Muslims.
Victor Ghalib Begg, chairman emeritus of the Council of Islamic Organization for Michigan, said that it was crucial for the Muslim and Jewish communities to have good relationships.
“We live with the Jewish community as neighbors, our doctors work together in hospitals and our kids go to school together. This initiative is helping provide an important service to people who have no medical insurance but it’s also bringing our communities closer together – Muslim, Jewish, suburban and inner-city,” said Begg Tuesday’s health-care fair was the second such event, the first having taken place in November last year.
The two community organizations have worked together on previous projects such as a Christmas Day initiative dubbed “Mitzvah Day,” in which Jewish volunteers – joined in recent years by members of the Muslim community – have stood in for Christian communityservice workers on Christmas Day to allow them to take a break on the holiday.
“This health fair is part of an ongoing effort to make our community more inclusive,” Begg said. “Our communities appreciate the work we do to bring the communities together and we need more good news like this.”
“We’re hoping this kind of message will be delivered in Palestine and Israel because we want to be an example to others further afield,” he said.
The volunteers also included a number of medical professionals from Detroit’s 125,000-strong Chaldean community, an eastern Christian denomination of the Catholic Church.
As with all Muslim-Jewish ties, Cohen explains, relations are strained because of the conflict in the Middle East and the general support of each community for their co-religionists.
“So we’re not trying to solve the conflict or even engage in difficult conversations.
We are so far apart in the way we look at the conflict there’s almost no common ground, but yet we live together side-by-side in this city and it’s a good idea to get to know your neighbors.