Jane Jeffes is a producer and director and former head of ABC Religion & Ethics. A UK-Australian dual national. She is based in Sydney, Australia.
Recipes for Ramadan – an invitation to a virtual iftar – has been a crazy ride over the last three to four weeks but it’s been rewarded by the enthusiasm of people to participate and the enthusiasm of community partners to support.
An idea I first planned as a TV series, a reassuringly philosophical friend once said the right time would come. COVID-19 has been the spur to re-imagine it as a community project for Ramadan 2020, a Ramadan so very different from any before it.
No congregational prayers, no night markets, no Eid Festivals and iftar dinners reduced to small family affairs unable to include extended family, neighbours, friends, colleagues and the wider community.
A month ago, we started on a wing and a prayer fuelled by the enthusiasm of Amity College and Unity Grammar’s Community Engagement and Pastoral Care Teams.
AMUST embraced the idea as a community media partner and Mustafa Allawi and Omar Aziz’s Hazen Agency jumped in without knowing if or when we might be able to pay their bills! The Gaza Children’s Fund followed seeing an alignment with its focus on women, children and families and its annual Ramadan fund-raising drive and Together for Humanity joined seeing the potential for intercultural interfaith understanding and community.
Last week, we were pleased to announce that the City of Canterbury and Bankstown had come on board as a ‘gold sponsor’ partner, seeing it as a good fit with its Haldon Street Ramadan Nights unable to go ahead.
This week we are thrilled that Cumberland City Council and Tender Loving Care Disability Services have also joined with us as ‘gold sponsors’ and partners, giving us the security that we can cover most of the production costs of the website, social media and a number of videos, and more partners to help roll out to a wider audience.
Cumberland City Council had cancelled its planned Ramadan Festival and recognised how social distancing and the requirement to stay at home would challenge the community spirit of Ramadan with its usual iftar dinners and community events impossible.
In announcing its partnership with Recipes for Ramadan, Cumberland Mayor Steve Christou said, “We wanted to find a way to do more than simply wish our Islamic community a blessed month of fasting, faith and reflection. Social distancing has made family gatherings, community events and congregation in mosques and indeed anywhere indoors and outdoors impossible and we know how disappointing this is for our Islamic community so many of whom invite friends and colleagues as well as their own extended family to their homes each night to break the daily fast.”
“We hope both Muslim and non-Muslim residents will see Recipes for Ramadan as a substitute way to share food and stories during Ramadan, a virtual invitation to an online Iftar – and that it will be fun both to contribute recipes and stories as Hosts and to try recipes, read stories and meet new people as Guests. Even if the doggy-bag is virtual too!”
“As a community, we need to channel our creativity and resilience to stay positive, navigate our way through this pandemic and come out the other side. During COVID-19, Cumberland City Council has introduced online initiatives to help keep families and children entertained and Recipes for Ramadan will add to that.”
Tender Loving Care Disability Services is also hoping to raise the spirits of its community. An NDIS registered provider with offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Tender Loving Care’s vision is to grow and nurture people with disability and to support community engagement and learning opportunities.
TLC CEO Yasser Zaki said “We hope that TLC’s involvement with Recipes for Ramadan will provide our clients with an opportunity for community engagement in these challenging times. We also see it as a way to encourage pride in their cultural heritage and in their ability to cook, share stories and entertain and be entertained. We hope some of the people we support will want to contribute and that others will be keen to try recipes and make new friends and acquaintances through the stories and to be able to connect with others with shared interest via the social media, Facebook and Instagram.”
“TLC is proud to support Recipes of Ramadan as a project that brings together the tastes of myriad cultures and diverse communities, especially during this Holy Month of Ramadan. This diversity resonates with TLC’s multicultural identity and philosophy to serve the community. The opportunities for community engagement are limited due to COVID 19 restrictions but community engagement is core to what the company strives to achieve and what Recipes of Ramadan aims to accomplish with virtual Iftars, cooking recipes and sharing stories. This synergy of values means TLC and Recipes of Ramadan is a natural association.”
Celebrating richly diverse Muslim culture and heritage, Recipes for Ramadan is a kind of Who Do you Think You Are? with food replacing the family tree!