Congregation Beth Shalom installs Islamic art

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By Sam Elliott

Congregation Beth Shalom moved into its new building at 849 W. 96th St. last year and has since been working to decorate its new home.

The latest piece of art displayed in the synagogue sanctuary made its debut during Shabbat services Jan. 11 and represents a meaningful co-mingling of faiths as Jews and Muslims came together to celebrate their similarities.

“The Path,” by Muslim artist Salma Taman, found its way to the Jewish synagogue thanks to the artist’s friendship with congregation member Jennifer Warriner of Carmel, who’s been attending Beth Shalom for more than three years. The pair first met at an art show at Taman’s Indianapolis gallery the night “The Path” first went on display there, and Warriner commissioned her own piece from Taman that was completed last fall.

“Working on her painting, we discovered as people of two different faiths we have so much in common,” Taman said. “I appreciated her knowledge and also the fact that she shares the same ideas about faith as me. Every time we spoke, we got closer and we realized, ‘Why do we make a fuss about the small details that really don’t matter? The core beliefs are the same.’”

The artwork incorporates a Quranic passage in Arabic, which translates to “call to the path of God through wisdom and beautiful preaching.”

“So, it’s perfect for a house of worship,” Taman said. “The real funny thing is that when I was creating the piece I picked a design that integrates the Star of David, which is also known to Muslims as the Seal of Solomon. Much like our faiths, they go by different names, but the core beliefs are the same.”

When Warriner mentioned the idea of hanging “The Path” in the synagogue sanctuary, Taman was skeptical the rest of the congregation would be, as she put it, “as crazy as us.” But Rabbi Stanley Halpern and the Beth Shalom family welcomed Taman and her work with open arms.

“The artwork is absolutely gorgeous,” Halpern said. “There is something incredibly beautiful about Arabic, just the writing of it, but more importantly, the statement is so similar to statements within Judaism of bringing people to know God. It was very well received, both the artwork and the idea of what we were doing with sharing our space and sharing our time together.”

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