Muslims, Jews unite for day of service

Rayyan Hyder (right) delivers a blanket to Lilly Scharff, one of the organizers of the Jewish and Muslim Day of Community Service. Hyder, who has undergone two lung transplants, had received such a blanket from the St. Louis Crisis Nursery while he was in the hospital.  Photos by Eric Berger

By Eric Berger, Jewish Light Staff Writer

Rayyan Hyder, 12, received a blanket made by volunteers while he was in the hospital after having been diagnosed with cancer. He underwent two lung transplants and said he is “doing better now.”

He was able to participate in the fifth annual Jewish and Muslim Day of Community Service on Christmas and helped make blankets for children who are now in the hospital.

His father, Ansar Hyder, who attends Dar AlJalal Islamic Center in Hazelwood, said that he was motivated to volunteer not only because he feels blessed by his son’s recovery, but also to counter the negative ideas associated with Islam.

“What you see in the media is not really what true Muslims are,” said Hyder. “I think there’s always a few bad apples and unfortunately those few bad apples get the majority of the attention.”

Hundreds of volunteers gathered at sites throughout St. Louis, with many mentioning a desire to give back and to build understanding between the Muslim and Jewish communities.

The day “brings people from different faiths together, and that’s what we need,” said Berta Goldgaber, 76, who creates Judaica art and belongs to Bais Abraham Congregation. “It’s a good opportunity to get to know people from other faiths — otherwise we would never meet.”

Volunteer opportunities included delivering hot meals to homebound seniors, making soup packets for area food pantries at a local mosque and doing activities with teens at a juvenile detention center.