Building Community Through A Virtual Iftaar
May 7, 2021
Last week, all IFYC team members were invited to a community Zoom Iftar to celebrate the nightly break fast during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. For those who have worked hard to adhere to CDC guidelines during the past year of pandemic, holidays can be an especially lonely time – traditions have shifted, and hugs are far and few in between. Cleanup is probably easier for those who typically would have hosted, and you don’t have to travel nearly as far, but we yearn for a time when we can simply talk around a table full of desserts and freshly brewed coffee, or dates and fruit salad and jalebis.
We, Vanessa and Rachel, started our time at IFYC in March of 2021. Some parts of starting a job remained the same – furiously taking notes during orientation sessions, frantically trying to find your passport for new hire paperwork, and asking millions of questions to the patient and kind co-workers who have been there longer than you… But there are some things that aren’t the same; no gathering around a plate of cookies a co-worker made from their favorite recipe, not planning out the route you’ll take into the office for your first commute (although, we enjoy the current commute in slippers), and not being able to pop by a co-worker’s desk and ask them about a photo they have or a souvenir from a vacation they took years ago.
We weren’t sure what to expect or how to navigate the complexities of getting to know colleagues from a distance, but IFYC team members Silma and Nadia welcomed us into their homes, their traditions, and their faith in such a beautiful and meaningful way as they hosted this virtual iftar online. They explained when you could start eating and vividly described the feeling of anticipation as children. We sat in our respective homes in front of Zoom screens in those last few minutes until sundown, anxiously awaiting the time together this year.
Silma created an incredible quiz for all of us team members to take and learn about Ramadan. Each question was accompanied by personal stories of funny and meaningful experiences from iftars past. We learned about the practices of people in the Arctic circle who align their fasting hours to those of family in the Middle East or South Asia, and about the personal experiences of bringing food and celebrating with neighbors. We were told that the purpose of the iftar was to build community, to come together and celebrate, and we can honestly say that that was accomplished with this gathering. The stories Nadia and Silma shared were about the “how” of Ramadan, and also the “why”; their memories and traditions revolved around family and community, joy and reflection. For those of us who celebrate and observe other holidays, this experience of participating in a virtual iftar with colleagues was a genuine moment of connection; the holidays we each celebrate may be different, but the experience of celebration and the feelings associated with traditions are so beautifully similar.
The past year of the pandemic has so often brought about complexities, confusion, and isolation, but this iftar created a true source of connection and light; a reminder that we can still find clarity and community when we open our hearts and homes to each other. For that, we truly thank Nadia and Silma for sharing a piece of themselves with us, and for helping IFYC feel more like home.
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