Jewish and Muslim people across Oak Park are decrying the horror of the Israel-Gaza war, with some calling for action, others praying for peace and many mourning the loss of loved ones in the conflict. 

The Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine and Jewish Voice For Peace have joined together to call on Congress and President Joe Biden to build a foreign policy designed to end violence and to stop backing Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory. 

Both organizations have a long history of opposing Israel’s occupation of Palestine and military funding of Israel using U.S. taxpayer’s money. They also focus on bringing awareness and educating people on the issue and how to achieve peace. 

The two groups are urging people to action to call or email Congressional representative and demand to cease fire and allow humanitarian help to Gaza.

They are also asking people to protest and rally against violence like the ones held in nearby suburbs and Chicago.

Caren Van Slyke, one of the founders and chair of CJPIP, an Oak Park-based group, said she believes that people’s voices will be heard.

“We have to make our voices heard that we want to stop sending weapons to Israel,” Van Slyke said.

CJPIP, along with American Friends Service Committee, recently secured Representative Danny Davis’s co-sponsorship of “Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation” Act.

This act prohibits Israel from using U.S. taxpayers’ money from being used for military detention, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children, supporting the seizure and destruction of Palestinian property and homes and any support or assistance for Israel’s unilateral annexation of Palestinian territory in violation of international humanitarian law.

After the attack, members and friends of Oak Park Temple B’nai Abraham Zion gathered in their house of worship to grieve the loss of what they consider to be family members in faith 5,000 miles away and to show solidarity with Israel.

Rabbi Max Weiss tried to express what his people were feeling and to set those emotions in the context of their faith. 

“This moment in time following the murder by Hamas of over 1,300 innocent people in Israel, the kidnapping of almost 200 and the maiming of body and spirit of thousands, feels like a time of collective mourning in the Jewish community,” he said.

“At times over this last week I’ve felt like I was sitting shiva.”

Shiva is the week-long mourning period in Judaism for first-degree relatives.

On Oct. 19, a panel of six Muslim Americans at the Community of Congregations meeting at Pilgrim Congregational Church on Lake Street shared aspects of their religion and experience as Oak Parkers.

The goal of both the panelists and the audience was to find common ground.

Aisha Ahmed and the convener of the panel, Ayesha Akhtar, explained what they had in common with their Jewish friends and how some of them differed regarding Oct. 7. 

“I felt disbelief and horror when I heard about the Hamas attack” Ahmed recalled.

Akhtar, a resident of Oak Park for 20 years, echoed her friend’s reaction, adding “who is condemning the current genocide we are all witnessing right now?  We know that Israel’s attempts at a ground invasion will simply not destroy the Hamas ideology but is a tactic of eradicating any trace of Palestinians who have lived on that soil for generations.”

Yet, Akhtar added, “Muslims and Jews have so much in common, and together our communities can work against extremist hate that has become an unfortunate pervasive part of our diaspora.”

Chicago Coalition for Justice in Palestine is organizing a protest against the attack on Gaza Oct. 24 at 1 p.m. on Michigan Avenue and Ida B. Wells Drive.

On Oct. 13, Israel’s military told 1 million Palestinians to evacuate to the southern part of the besieged territory, which the United Nations and other humanitarian groups said is impossible. Gaza has been under siege by Israel since Oct. 7 after Islamist militant movement Hamas attacked the country. More than 5,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have died. In Israel, the Hamas attacked killed at least 1,400 people.

Deborah Adelman, member of the Chicago-area chapter of JVP, said she believes U.S. citizens need to take responsibility for their tax dollars. 

“We must take a stand and protest the use of our tax dollars to go towards militarism and destruction,” Adelman said. “We have an obligation to contact our elected representatives, to ask them to take responsibility for our tax money and what happens with it.”

The U.S. pledged to provide $38 billion in military aid, $33 billion in Foreign Military Financing grants plus $5 billion in missile defense appropriations, according to the Congressional Research Service. 

Correction 10-24, 6:04 p.m.: This story has been updated to state the correct organizer of the protest against the attack on Gaza Oct. 24 at 1 p.m. on Michigan Avenue and Ida B. Wells Drive. It is Chicago Coalition for Justice in Palestine. We regret the error.

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Tom's been writing about religion – broadly defined – for years in the Journal. Tom's experience as a retired minister and his curiosity about matters of faith will make for an always insightful exploration...