City of Jacksonville


arabic lantern with moon in nightsky

Mayor’s Speech at Interfaith Ramadan

March 15, 2024
Salaam. Shalom. Peace to All.

In this sacred month for Muslim people and in this sacred space for the Jewish community, all of us from various faith backgrounds have gathered with one purpose in mind -- to better understand each other so that together we can build a city that welcomes everyone.

One of the values I learned growing up as a Christian is that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. Later in life, I learned that this is not just a Christian value but rather a universal value, shared by all faiths. 

In the New Testament Christ says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” 

The Old Testament teaches us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” 

And Prophet Muhammad said, “You will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another.”  

Today this simple act of loving one another is complicated by wars and conflicts resulting from hate and divisiveness. 

Despite these challenges, we must lift up the better angels of our nature and rediscover the redemptive power of love. 

Our city is rapidly growing and becoming more diverse each day. New cultures and new customs are making Jacksonville their home. Unfortunately for some, these rapid changes represent a threat. To me, they represent an opportunity. 

Which is why the work Parvez is doing to help my administration fulfill my pledge to make Jacksonville a more equitable and inclusive city for all, is so vital to our future.

It is why I am grateful for the leadership of Rabbi Lubliner and Jacksonville Jewish Center for hosting this difficult conversation here today.

And it is why I want to offer my heartfelt appreciation for Rev. Huto and Alex Sivar at the Interfaith Center for giving us the opportunity to learn and experience each other’s faith traditions. 

Such encounters may very well be the antidote to the poison of antisemitism and Islamophobia, which are now unfortunately on the rise. 

The Jewish and Muslim communities in Jacksonville have been part of the fabric of our city for many generations. I want to take a moment to acknowledge some of their contributions that make Jacksonville a better city. 

Many may not know this, but Jacksonville was once the largest Jewish community in Florida, until it was overtaken by Miami in the 1930s. One of Jacksonville’s early mayors was Morris Dzialynski, a child of Jewish immigrants, who held office in the 1880s and later helped raise funds to rebuild the city after the Great Fire of 1901. Under the leadership of Jacob Cohen, one of the ten largest department stores in the United States opened its doors in the St. James Building, which today serves as Jacksonville’s City Hall. For more than 140 years, Jewishpeople have contributed to the beautiful diverse mosaic that is our city.

The Muslim American community is relatively younger and more recently arrived, but they too have been making valuable contributions to our city for decades. One more recent example, in 2010, the community established the Muslim American Social Services that provides free healthcare and social services to the uninsured, regardless of race or religion. In 2023 the clinic provided 700 at-risk families with fresh food and served over 4000 patients with an all-volunteer force of doctors and nurses. The economic impact of this was over 4 million dollars in cost savings to emergency rooms.

Occasions like today are important for our city. And so, I want to thank all of you who came to learn about how to remain hopeful in the midst of unspeakable tragedies.

Dialogues across our differences are essential for promoting understanding, resolving conflicts, and facilitating growth as individuals and communities. 

I am committed to doing that as your mayor.

Since several members of the City Council are here (name them), please know that I look forward to working with you on the upcoming budget and want to find ways to fund nonprofit organizations such as the Interfaith Center, OneJax, 904Ward, Jasmyn, the Y, the Jewish Federation, among others who are engaged in dialogue across our differences. 

When these organizations succeed, we collectivelysucceed because they provide our communities with the resources to build bridges across our differences. A cohesive and harmonious city where everyone is working together towards a common goal will be a great boon for us because among other things it will drive more young people to consider Jacksonville as their destination city.

As a city we are known for the many bridges that dot our landscape, and yet we remain segregated in our neighborhoods and isolated in our cultural silos.            We must change that and make bridges not only an essential part of our physical infrastructure but also weave them into the fabric of our communities.

Our city is still reeling from the racist mass shootings that took place in the Newtown/Grand Park area. Not too long before that we had incidents with antisemitic messages being projected onto buildings. We also experienced the tragedy of transgender women being murdered in our city. Several years ago, a mosque in our city was pipe bombed, while worshippers prayed inside. 

We must confront these tragedies with sustained engagement. The only way to defeat hate speech and hate actions is to drown it out with good speech and good actions. 


Before I conclude, I want to welcome Yuval and Mohammed who are travelling all the way from Israel and Palestine to teach us about love and reconciliation in the midst of a tragic and violent conflict affecting their homeland. This is no small act of bravery. Yuval and Mohammed may God bless your family and let the memories of your loved ones be a source for your blessings.

And may His grace allow us to find purposeful action in your pain.

I have said it before and I will say it again, Hamas must release all the hostages. Both Israel and Hamas must mutually agree to stop the war and move towards a negotiated solution that brings peace and security for both sides. 

I do not have leverage on American foreign policy, but as a mayor who listens, I know that both Jewish and Palestinian communities in my city are hurting. I hear their pain and I will do everything in my power to make sure that they are supported and protected.

My favorite poet and philosopher, Rumi said it best that, “Love is the bridge between you and everything.” 

This is why I lead with love and lead from a position of love. We must learn to love each other even when our differences with each other seem irreconcilable. 

Because, if we look at the founding text of our different religions, we will find common calling and faith in the notion that tomorrow will be brighter.

And in that tomorrow when we know better, we must do better.

In the New Testament, as part of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

The Quran states, “Peace be upon you. Your Lord has decreed upon Himself mercy.”

And the Torah proclaims, “May the Lord bless you, and keep you; May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; May the Lord lift up His face to you and give you peace.”

After tonight, when we depart from each other and from this space, let us not depart from the calling to be peacemakers -- within our hearts, in our homes, and with our neighbors.

Salaam. Shalom. Peace to All.