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Reflecting on holy days

October 05, 2005|By: Tania Chatila

As Jews around the globe end a 48-hour Rosh Hashanah celebration

today, ringing in the new year 5766, Muslims worldwide begin a

monthlong journey of fasting and prayer for the holy month of

Ramadan.

Muslims at the Islamic Relief Center in Burbank, and worldwide,

are -- practicing self-control and reflection and giving to those

less fortunate.

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"Ramadan is a month of mercy and a month of charity," said Arif

Shaikh, spokesman for the center. "It's something where people are

extremely charitable, and are really working on themselves to become

better people."

Though the Islamic Relief Center in Burbank -- the headquarters

for Islamic Relief in the United States -- is just a simple office

building, inside, some 25 employees there pray five times a day and

will be fasting from dawn until dusk, without any food or water, for

the next 30 days, Shaikh said.

"The fasting and the charity that's conducted are just the

measures you apply to yourself to be a better human being at the end

of the month," said Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the

Muslim Public Affairs Council. "It celebrates the human mind and how

we are able to control ourselves."

Ramadan, which is celebrated in the ninth month of the lunar

calendar, calls for the practice of all five pillars of Islam --

testifying one's faith, praying five times a day, fasting, giving

charity and Hajj, which is a pilgrimage every Muslim must make at

least once in their lifetime to Mecca, the first house of worship,

Al-Marayati said.

This Ramadan will be especially busy for the Burbank Islamic

Relief Center, because the center will be providing food programs for

the needy, collecting money and organizing gifts for Islamic relief

organizations throughout the world. It will also be upping its

efforts fundraise for Hurricane Katrina victims, Shaikh said.

"We believe all good deeds done during Ramadan are rewarded," he

said.

In Glendale, nearly 300 Jews attended a three-hour morning service

Tuesday at the Temple Sinai for Rosh Hashanah.

"It's one of the most sacred Jewish holidays," said Judith Harris,

who attended the three-hour service. "It's a very important holiday

and I'm a very spiritual, religious person, and the holidays are

important to me."

Tuesday morning's service was followed by a luncheon.

"It's supposed to be a sweet new year," said Florence Coutin, a

board member of the Temple Sinai sisterhood, adding that the luncheon

featured apples with honey and apple cake to further emphasize the

hope of a sweet year to come. "And the services were wonderful. We

had a lot of people participate, young and old ."

Congregants at the Temple Sinai represented just a small group of

the millions of Jews around the world who rang in the new year Monday

at sundown.

"It's really a holiday of introspection," said Rabbi Simcha

Backman, of the Chabad Jewish Center of Glendale. "Although we look

at the past year to learn from it, our focus is on the coming year --

how we can change to make it a more fruitful, positive year, to make

it a peaceful year."

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