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Yom Kippur Helps Muslim Woman Rediscover Her Jewish Roots

9 October 2011 Huffington Post 17 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

It was a few years ago that Reima Yosif, a devout Muslim, discovered a surprising family secret: she was Jewish — kind of.

The revelation came while Yosif, who lives in North Brunswick, N.J., was mourning her grandfather’s death. A cousin who had inherited his belongings came upon old identification papers for their grandmother, who had died many years before.

The woman, who was raised in colonial Italian North Africa, was of Jewish decent. She had hidden her background to protect her safety as Jews in Italian colonies were sent to concentration camps during World War II and fled Arab states after Israel was established. Two generations of Muslim children just like Reima grew up unaware of their Jewish side.

As Jews begin to observe Yom Kippur, the holiest time on the Jewish calendar, at sundown Friday with Kol Nidre prayers and a day of fasting, Yosif will be joining the spiritual journey for the first time.

“I don’t see any contradiction in taking part in Yom Kippur. It heightens my own devotion to my own faith,” said Yosif, who likens it to the Islamic month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast during the daylight hours.

“The idea of dedicating a day for repentance. The idea of the rights of God and of human beings. God will forgive what you have done against him but you won’t be forgiven for your transgression of others until they forgive you. That God renews your contract. This is also what Ramadan is about,” she said.

Yosif, who founded Al-Rawiya, a nonprofit that works on Muslim women’s empowerment, admits she isn’t the first person one would expect to take part in Yom Kippur — or in Rosh Hashanah celebrations, as she did last week.

“I dress in full Islamic garb, with my head covered, arms covered,” she said. “People sometimes have fear or curiosity. There’s always an ice-breaker moment.”

One such moment came in July, when Yosif went on a two-week trip in the United Kingdom as part of the Ariane de Rothschild fellowship, a cross-cultural and social entrepreneurship program for Jewish and Muslim professionals. On the flight to the London and the subsequent bus ride to Cambridge University, she struck up a conversation with a woman who was also coming from the United States for the program.

“It was just two of us in a car for two-and-a-half hours. It was very obvious because she wears a headscarf that she is a Muslim. And then she told me about her grandmother, and I thought it was so interesting,” said that woman, Sara Green, who founded Art for Refugees in Transition, a New York-based nonprofit.

>> Continue reading: Yom Kippur Helps Muslim Woman Rediscover Her Jewish Roots


  1. Surat al Kaferoon… hello!?

  2. kaferoon means unbelievers of GOD, not islam. The first people to be called kaferoon were the Arab pagans of Mohammad (peace be upon him)’s time, not Jews, or Christians. Jews are like the Arabs’ cousins. We’re not supposed to hate them.

    Anyway, this is a cool story. See, you can be a jewish Muslim, and love it.

  3. Elle i think we are given two only two eids for celebrating she what happens when you try and use your own reasons to do something instead of sticking to the sunah now she has to comprise herself by having to be around wine and pagan practices when you don’t have to

  4. salaam

    You look like a smart person, you’re not, but you seem like one. Sure, Islam says we have two religious holidays. OK, but you can still chill and have fun with your friends on Christmas or whatever as long as you don’t celebrate it as YOUR holiday. Like Halloween. Some people are like “It’s so bad! Satan’s birthday! OOOOH!” Shut up. I’m not getting free candy cause it’s the devil’s holiday. It’s just a day to go out with friends and have fun.

    And can you chill with this whole sunnah thing? God, it’s Muslims who act like you that make me ashamed to call myself Muslim. Like i’m sorry, but you take things to such an false and over exaggerated level. Maybe your not blowing cars up or something but your giving people misinformation. NOT. COOL.

  5. Elle such beautiful Islamic manners you have. If you want to go against the sunah celebrating Christian and pagan holidays go ahead but don’t insult people who want to InshaAllah follow the deen the correct way I suggest you try and get a deeper understanding of the deen it seem like you go by how something makes you feel instead of what the religion says

  6. Congratulating the kuffaar on their religious festivals is haraam to the extent described by Ibn al-Qayyim because it implies that one accepts or approves of their rituals of kufr, even if one would not accept those things for oneself. But the Muslim should not aceept the rituals of kufr or congratulate anyone else for them, because Allaah does not accept any of that at all, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):

    “If you disbelieve, then verily, Allaah is not in need of you, He likes not disbelief for His slaves. And if you are grateful (by being believers), He is pleased therewith for you. . .”
    [al-Zumar 39:7]

    “. . . This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islaam as your religion . . .”
    [al-Maa’idah 5:3]

    So congratulating them is forbidden, whether they are one’s colleagues at work or otherwise.

    If they greet us on the occasion of their festivals, we should not respond, because these are not our festivals, and because they are not festivals which are acceptable to Allaah. These festivals are innovations in their religions, and even those which may have been prescribed formerly have been abrogated by the religion of Islaam, with which Allaah sent Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) to the whole of mankind. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
    “Whoever seeks a religion other than Islaam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:85]

    It is haraam for a Muslim to accept invitations on such occasions, because this is worse than congratulating them as it implies taking part in their celebrations.

    Similarly, Muslims are forbidden to imitate the kuffaar by having parties on such occasions, or exchanging gifts, or giving out sweets or food, or taking time off work, etc., because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.” Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyah said in his book Iqtidaa’ al-siraat al-mustaqeem mukhaalifat ashaab al-jaheem: “Imitating them in some of their festivals implies that one is pleased with their false beliefs and practices, and gives them the hope that they may have the opportunity to humiliate and mislead the weak.”

    Whoever does anything of this sort is a sinner, whether he does it out of politeness or to be friendly, or because he is too shy to refuse, or for whatever other reason, because this is hypocrisy in Islaam, and because it makes the kuffaar feel proud of their religion.

    Allaah is the One Whom we ask to make the Muslims feel proud of their religion, to help them adhere steadfastly to it, and to make them victorious over their enemies, for He is the Strong and Omnipotent.

    Majmoo’ah Fataawa wa Rasaa’il al-Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 3/369)

  7. elle,

    i think salaam knows what he is talking about. don’t let him see you at a christmas party. he’ll kill an apostate for allah. i think you have become to assimulated with the american pagans. you do know december 25th isn’t really jesus’ birthday. it’s the winter solstice, well near it. the christians just wanted to hijack the pagan celebration.
    and halloween is all souls day, at least for catholics. day of the dead for the mexicans? right? you wear costumes because all the souls or spirits of the dead walk the earth for a night and some of them aren’t friendly, something like that. not sure where the candy came in? and nov 1 is all saints day. anyways did i see right on a different article that you think female circumsicion is a good thing?

  8. m2 I Pray Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) guides you to the deen of Al- Islam

  9. M2… I’m sure you also would NOT hesitade for a second to kill an infidel mooozlem for your lord and savior jesus isnt?? Just looking at your usual comments shows how mutch of a hardcore, obsessive missionary Jesus freak you are.

    We all know many extremist jesus freaks like to post as LOL “atheist”, to have better footing in their missionary work, they think people cannot see through them.
    Mikey, god jesus would not approve of you disguising as such and the christian identity he gave you.

  10. salaam

    Yeah, thanks, ugh, you know i’m normally a very polite and mannered person but you’re borderline extremity is bothering me quite a lot. excuse me if I’m not like the Prophet, of course, you’re not either so why are you talking?

    I asked a sheikh about this and he said “You aren’t celebrating Christmas when you go and sit with friends. It becomes a celebration when you bring presents, when alcohol and music is present. Halloween is haram to celebrate because it is linked to something satanic. Although now people just go for candy and costumes, long ago it had to do with satanic rituals.”

    m2 (mike or whatever)

    The sarcasm I really don’t like. While I don’t really agree with what Sahra’s been saying, I see where she’s going. and we don’t believe in “American pagans” like wtf?? Pagan and polytheistic religions don’t belong to any ethnicity or nationality. I’m an American Muslim. I know American Christians and Jews, even a Hindu. Where you get this from I don’t know.

    And no, I don’t think it’s a good thing. Me, personally, no. But I’ve seen it done in Africa and some Middle Eastern countries. While is mandatory for men not only for islam but because to be healthy you kinda have to. (Half of our faith is cleanliness in [regards to health too] and thats why the removal of the foreskin is important.) Anyway, the Prophet said the female circumcision is optional, now of course if your just slashing at the genitalia you’re not only hurting the girl and potentially causing later infections, your also doing haram. You wanna do a circumsision? Do it right. I don’t really like the idea of it, but some people like women in Egypt love the idea. Idk, I mean for example sometimes I want a taste of the nightlife people live, but then I see the problems they get into afterwards and then I think my lucky stars I’m a Muslim. Idk, my opinion I guess.

  11. sahra

    chill, girl. Breathe. Believe me, this is not what the prophet encouraged. Remember surat Abasa, all Muhammad did was glare at the man, and thats a sin. Imagine us…

  12. Oh, Salaam

    Kufar, my friend, are un-believers of GOD. Christians believe in Him and so do Jews. The first people to be called kufar/kafirs were the Arabian pagans who believed in Al-Lat and ‘Uzza and all those other pagan gods. I think it’s best you brush up on the history of Islam. You wanna talk about Christians and Jews, call them People of the Book, that is what Muhammad (PBUH) called them, wouldn’t you want to follow the Sunnah? Since you’re acting so religious, don’t you think it’s best to?

  13. salaam,

    i wouldn’t waste too much prayer time on me. i came to an age of reason long ago.


    i love ya. you never fail. don’t think i can type i’m laughing so hard. but yeah your right i shouldn’t have said i’m atheist. i was just reusing the term elle used. i’m agnostic. i can’t prove there is no god.


    yeah like i said i can be sarcastic. i know it’s very sophmoric of me, but it does make me laugh so. and i just couldn’t resist with all of the self loathing of victumhood. the deflection of look at the “injustice” they stopped a guy in a vest, wouldn’t let a woman on a plane….etc etc. all “tragedies” on the scale of,,, if you haven’t already then don’t read my post on the “raghead article”. i give it both barrels there, or maybe that is what you are talking about?

  14. Elle I hope I do not come and sit in any class your sheikh is teaching if he gave you the ok to go out celebrating Christmas. Allah’s “birth day”. Astaghfirullah. Also which him are you referring to the father the son or the holy ghost. Also the definition of Kafir has more than one meaning just so you know.

  15. Types of kufr (disbelief) – Adapted from ‘Tafseer ibn Katheer[5] The Qur’an uses the word kufr to denote a person who covers up or hides realities, one who refuses to accept the dominion and authority of Allāh.

    There are several types of Al-Kufr ul Akbar:
    1.Kufrul-‘Inaad: Disbelief out of stubbornness. This applies to someone who knows the truth and admits to knowing the truth and admits to knowing it with his tongue, but refuses to accept it and refrains from making a declaration. The Qur’an states: “Do ye twain hurl to hell each rebel ingrate?” [6]
    2.Kufrul-Inkaar: Disbelief out of denial. This applies to someone who denies with both heart and tongue. The Qur’an states: “They recognize the favor of Allah, yet they deny it, and most of them are ungrateful.”[7]
    3.Kufrul-Kibr: Disbelief out of arrogance and pride. The disbelief by the devil (Iblees) is an example of this type of kufr.
    4.Kufrul-Juhood: Disbelief out of rejection. This applies to someone who acknowledges the truth in his heart, but rejects it with his tongue. This types of kufr is applicable to those who calls themselves Muslims but who reject any necessary and accepted norms of Islam such as Salaat and Zakat. The Qur’an states: “And they denied them, though their souls acknowledged them, for spite and arrogance. Then see the nature of the consequence for the wrong-doers!”[8]
    5.Kufrul-Nifaaq: Disbelief out of hypocrisy. This applies to someone who pretends to be a believer but conceals his disbelief. Such a person is called a MUNAFIQ or hypocrite. The Qur’an states: “The Hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire: no helper wilt thou find for them.” [9]
    6.Kufrul-Istihlaal: Disbelief out of trying to make HARAM into HALAL. This applies to someone who accepts as lawful (Halal) that which Allah has made unlawful (Haram) like alcohol or adultery. Only Allah has the prerogative to make things Halal and Haram and those who seek to interfere with His right are like rivals to Him and therefore fall outside the boundaries of faith.
    7.Kufrul-Kurh: Disbelief out of detesting any of Allah’s commands. The Qur’an states: “And those who disbelieve, perdition is for them, and He will make their actions vain; That is because they are averse to that which Allah hath revealed, therefor maketh He their actions fruitless.”[10]
    8.Kufrul-Istihzaa: Disbelief due to mockery and derision. The Qur’an states: “And if thou ask them (O Muhammad) they will say: We did but talk and jest. Say: Was it at Allah and His revelations and His messenger that ye did scoff; Make no excuse. Ye have disbelieved after your (confession of) belief. If We forgive a party of you, a party of you We shall punish because they have been guilty.”[11]
    9.Kufrul-I’raadh: Disbelief due to avoidance. This applies to those who turn away and avoid the truth. The Qur’an states: “And who is more unjust than he who is reminded of the communications of his Lord, then he turns away from them and forgets what his two hands have sent before? Surely We have placed veils over their hearts lest they should understand it and a heaviness in their ears; and if you call them to the guidance (Qur’an), they will not ever follow the right course (Islam) in that case.”[12]
    10.Kufrul-Istibdaal: Disbelief because of trying to substitute Allah’s Laws. This could take the form of: (a) Rejection of Allah’s law (Sharee’ah) without denying it, (b) denial of Allah’s law and therefore rejecting it, or (c) Substituting Allah’s laws with “artificial” (i.e. non-Muslim) laws. The Qur’an states: “And if Allah had pleased He would surely have made them a single community, but He makes whom He pleases enter into His mercy, and the unjust it is that shall have no guardian or helper.”[13] The Qur’an says: “Truly, Allâh is with those who fear Him (keep their duty unto Him), and those who are doers of good and righteousness.” [14]

  16. salaam,

    elle doesn’t accept wiki pages as proof. they are open sourced and anyone can create a page. although they do monitor it and i think it is as accurate as anything you’ll find on the web. anyways regardless of how you define kafir, the real question is how should they be treated?

    and number 6 is interesting: “HARAM into HALAL” so is the converse true as well. what did that saudi iman say, “it is as bad to forbid what god allows as it is to allow what god forbids”?


    idk, but this guy agrees with salaam. because he throughs in you have to believe in mohammad as the final prophet. so then i guess the quess is what is meant by “the truth”. so do you not only have to believe in the one god but also his prophet. if so all none muslim including people of
    the book are kafir?


    how do you think the kafir should be treated?

    just thought of something. the ahmadiyya, are they kafir? they believe in god and muhammad as his prophet. but then they throw in the second coming of jesus, that guy who died in 1908, i think?

  17. The Qur’an instructs Muslims to treat non-Muslims courteously in a spirit of kindness and generosity, given they are not hostile towards Muslims. God says:

    “God does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from dealing kindly and justly with them. Indeed, God loves those who act justly. God only forbids you from those who fight you because of religion and expel you from your homes and aid in your expulsion – (forbids) that you make allies of them. And whoever makes allies of them, then it is those who are the wrongdoers.” (Qur’an 60:8-9)

    When a Christian delegation from Ethiopian churches came to Medina, the Prophet opened up his mosque for them to stay in, hosted them generously, and personally served them meals. He said:

    “They were generous to our companions, so I wish to be generous to them in person…”

    In another instance, a Jewish man named Zayd bin Sana came to the Prophet of Islam to reclaim a debt. He grabbed the Prophet by his robe and cloak, pulled the Prophet close to his face, and said, ‘Muhammad, are you not going to give me my due? You and your clan Banu Muttalib never pay debts on time!’ Umar, one of the companions of the Prophet, got agitated and said, ‘Enemy of God, am I really hearing what you just said to God’s Prophet. I swear by the One who sent him with truth, if I were not afraid that he would blame me, I would have taken my sword and cut your head off!’ The Prophet looked calmly at Umar and censured him gently:

    “Umar, that is not what we needed to hear from you. You should have counseled me to pay my debts in time and asked him to seek repayment in a respectful manner. Now take him, repay him his debt from my money and give him an extra twenty measures of date.”

    The Jewish man was so pleasantly surprised by the Prophet’s behavior that he immediately declared his acceptance of Islam!

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