Boston Jew and West Bank Muslim Build a Temple, and Bridges, in Arkansas

October 6, 2007


Source: The New York Times

Just before the school year started in August 1971, Bill Feldman steered his Volvo amid the pickup trucks and horse trailers of small-town Arkansas, bound for his first job as a math professor. He was coming to the Bible Belt as a Jew reared in a Boston suburb, a scholar educated in Canada and Europe. To ease the culture shock, an uncle had given him three jars of kosher pickles for the trip.

The same month, 19-year-old Fadil Bayyari boarded the first plane of his life, carrying falafel from his mother for the journey from Tulkarem in the West Bank to Roosevelt University in Chicago. He handed a taxi driver at O’Hare the college’s address and was relieved of a month’s spending money when the cabby took the naïve newcomer downtown more or less by way of Indiana.

All these decades later, destiny or providence or something has delivered Mr. Feldman and Mr. Bayyari to the same acre of land at the bottom of one of Fayetteville’s many hills. There Mr. Bayyari, now a general contractor, will build the first permanent temple for the Reform Jewish congregation in Fayetteville, of which Mr. Feldman is president. And Mr. Bayyari, a Palestinian-American Muslim, is doing the job at no charge. Without his sacrifice, the congregation probably could not afford the project at all.

See also: Interfaith, Zoning