Sometimes the call comes at 3 a.m.

Shaykh Saifullah Muhammad, who serves as resident scholar at Plymouth's NorthWest Islamic Community Center, goes to the mosque to sit with people in his community no matter the hour "when they're going through things," he said.

This past month, after Hamas' Oct. 7 attack and Israel's retaliatory siege on Gaza, the number of people "going through things" has left him constantly on call. Some have friends and relatives in the Gaza Strip who have died or who they can't reach, he said.

The war may be 6,000 miles away, but it has upended life for many local faith leaders — rabbis, imams and Muslim scholars like Muhammad. Synagogues and mosques are hiring extra security amid increased threats, hosting discussions about the war and coordinating with members to attend rallies.

And almost all faith leaders are working overtime to help their communities cope with news of violence and death, while searching for the prayers and blessings that might give comfort.

"For so many people — Muslim, Jewish, Arab, Israeli — the last weeks have not been business as usual. It has been a time of intense anguish, and heavy heartedness and anxiety, and fear and hope," said Amin Aaser, who runs a Brooklyn Park-based educational program for Muslim children called Noor Kids.

He is now posting guides and videos online, working to help parents answer questions like "Why can't Allah just make it stop?"

Rabbis Rachel and Marcus Rubenstein, who serve at St. Paul's Temple of Aaron synagogue and host a podcast called "They're Rabbis & They're Married," dedicated a recent episode to coping with the war. They are working to "stay grounded" and care for their congregation, but they have their own intense feelings of anger and heartbreak about the Oct. 7 attack.

"I wanted to get on a plane and fly to Israel and join the IDF [Israel Defense Forces]. That was the thought for at least two or three days," Marcus Rubenstein explains on the show.

He didn't end up doing that, but continues to strongly support Israel from Minnesota, live-streaming daily prayers for Israel on Facebook and adding a prayer for the Israel Defense Forces to every service, following prayers for the United States, for the state of Israel — and for peace. The congregation also ends services by singing the Israeli national anthem.

Rubenstein said congregation members often come up to him after services, telling him about having trouble sleeping or their worries about antisemitism.

"I think there's also a secondary mission to keep our mental health here in America," he said. "For our families, you work for five, 10 minutes and then you go on Facebook, and you think about Israel for another two minutes and then you work for 10 minutes. And then you think about Israel again. Similar to someone who is grieving. Our family is at war right now."

Light in a dark time

At Bet Shalom in Minnetonka, Rabbi David Locketz sought a way to bring light to his congregation and help members feel less alone. So starting on Nov. 3, he decided to dedicate time during Shabbat services on the first Friday of every month to "marking the good."

He asked people to rise to acknowledge simple things like celebrating a birthday, getting a promotion at work, making a new friend or welcoming a grandchild, before a prayer of gratitude.

"One of the great parts of being in community with others is celebrating life together. We are there for each other in difficult times and we get to celebrate together in better ones. Our community is mourning. And in the depths of sadness, it is important to have hope. Life continues," he said.

"We have been creating safe space for people to just 'be,'" he said. "The synagogue is the one place where Jews do not need to explain themselves right now — how we are feeling, what we think about the war. A place where we can let our guard down."

People have been coming to him for help understanding what is happening in Israel, asking for advice on how to talk to neighbors, teachers and school administrators, he said.

"It is a very Jewish idea that we are "am echad" — one people. The Jewish world, whether here in Minnesota, or other places in the world, are here for one another. We will get through this difficult time. My faith demands that," he said.

A place to be heard

At Anjuman-e-Asghari mosque in Brooklyn Park, resident scholar Sayyid Muntadher decided to turn off the lights after sunset prayer on a recent Saturday, hand out flameless candles and open a discussion about the war. They served hot chocolate and provided child care so the men and women could talk freely about how they were feeling.

"They feel guilty that they're living a comfortable lifestyle here in the United States while seeing people so oppressed on the other side of the world," said Muntadher. "On one hand, they're grateful for God allowing them this, but the same time they feel guilty that they're taking things for granted here whereas others are suffering."

At the NorthWest Islamic Community Center, Muhammad has comforted one community member who lost dozens of family members in a bomb strike on Gaza and another who hasn't been able to reach relatives and former classmates.

"I'm there to listen and be compassionate with them with their feelings, and also just praying with them, giving them the space to be able to have the emotions that they have," he said.

He also works to share a "big message" with his community during this intense time of conflict, he said.

"As Muslims, we mourn the life of any innocent life that's lost," he said. "Our teachers would tell us, 'We always encourage the clash of minds but not the clash of hearts.' So, we can disagree as much as we want when it comes to theological points, but that should not lead to hatred in the heart."