Novi, MI–Rabbi Avrohom Susskind made a connection with a local Muslim doctor that lead to the usage of his building for a new Jewish’s Center in Novi, free of charge.
In 2005 Rabbi Susskind was in touch with the Jewish Federation, a partnership of various Jewish social agencies, educational and volunteer programs. The Jewish Federation told Rabbi Susskind that there were Jewish people scattered within the Novi area who were not really affiliated with the rest of the Jewish community. He was asked to come to Michigan to create something for these people to come together and get back to their Jewish roots.
Rabbi Susskind and his family left their home in New York and came to Michigan. They began at a grass roots level, with people only knowing about this new religious group by word of mouth. At this entry level came a lack of funds, so Rabbi Susskind was finding difficulty in trying to find a location to host the up and coming group. They were meeting at coffee shops, but he knew they needed a place to call home.
At a State of The City Address, Rabbi Susskind was asked to give the vocation speech. He forgot to secure himself a seat and as he walked off the stage, he was conspicuously trying to find a place to sit. A man named Dr. Hafeez Shaikh noticed him and gestured that he had an available seat. Rabbi Susskind thanked him and they struck up a conversation in which the rabbi mentioned his recent move to Michigan and efforts in trying to find a location for his congregation. Dr. Shaikh mentioned that he owned a building with available spaces that he would offer to the newly formed Jewish group, free of charge. “This was just one of the elements that struck me, and was just a sign of pure kindness from someone who is Muslim and devoted to his faith. I’ve seen that kindness in his faith, and I truly admire that greatly,” Rabbi Susskind told The Muslim Observer.
Rabbi Susskind followed up, and thought it was a great location, specifically because they are a group of Orthodox Jews. Orthodox Jews cannot drive on the Sabbath, the Jewish holy day, and the location was in walking distance. “From there we really developed a friendship that I truly cherish very much,” said Rabbi Susskind.
A decade later, Rabbi Susskind now refers to this building as their “Maintree” location, and is used for things like hosting special events for the kids on the weekends, and Jewish holiday events such as the Purim Party. The Purim Party is celebrating one of the Jewish holidays where the focus is all about sharing and experiencing joy. One of the traditions of the holiday is to share food baskets and to really just do anything that brings joy to others. One of the ways to share joy is to dress up and have fun.
Rabbi Susskind said that for a very long time he felt something within him that lead to want to share his education with others, and to help enrich people lives. He wanted the fulfilling and accomplishing feeling that came with doing God’s work. “Obviously I’m from a Jewish background and Dr. Shaikh is from a Muslim background, and we learn from each other and share ideas. It has definitely has been an enriching experience for both us,” Rabbi Susskind said.
“I think if there’s a takeaway from the story, it’s that there is a beauty in each of our faiths that we can all learn from and benefit,” said Rabbi Susskind.