Bay Ridge

Bay Ridge Unity Task Force to meet on Trump

December 17, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bay Ridge Unity Task Force members Councilman Vincent Gentile, Kathy Khatari (center) and Rabbi Dina Rosenberg discuss issues at a meeting last year. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas
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In the wake of statements made by Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump about banning Muslims from entering the U.S., the Bay Ridge Unity Task Force will meet on Dec. 21 to come up with a plan to show how different faiths in the neighborhood are united against prejudice.

The meeting, which will take place at Salam Lutheran Church at 414 80th St. at 10 a.m., will give the task force a chance to hear about a new project being organized by two of the group’s religious leaders, the Rev. Khader El-Yateem, pastor of the Salam Lutheran Church, and Rabbi Dina Rosenberg of the Bay Ridge Jewish Center.

The task force is composed of religious leaders of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities, civic activists and business leaders in Bay Ridge. The group was formed in 2000 at the behest of Charles Hynes, who was the Brooklyn district attorney at the time. Over the years, the group has organized community cleanups and inter-faith prayer services. Following the Sept. 11 attacks, task force members fanned out into Bay Ridge, a neighborhood with a large population of Arab-Americans, to talk to young people to ease tensions.

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In an email to task force members, Rabbi Rosenberg wrote that she and Rev. El-Yateem are currently working to develop a public campaign called Unity Across Bay Ridge to combat hatred and bigotry.

Rabbi Rosenberg and Rev. El-Yateem have also met with a graphic designer and are trying to come up with a design for a logo.

“Since we last met as a group, Reverend Khader El-Yateem and I have met twice and we are ready to receive feedback on some exciting ideas,” she wrote in the email.

The campaign was inspired by Maj. Tracy Hudgins, chaplain of the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton, according to Rabbi Rosenberg.

The goal of the Dec. 21 meeting “will be to generate excitement and fine tune the message and campaign that we will move forward with,” Rabbi Rosenberg wrote.

Trump, the outspoken billionaire who is leading in most presidential polls with just six weeks to go before the Iowa Caucuses, announced his controversial proposal in the wake of the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif. on Dec. 2 in which a young husband and wife shot up a roomful of county workers, killing 14 and injuring 21 others. The female suspect, Tashfeen Malik, had emigrated to the U.S. in 2014 from Saudi Arabia.

Trump called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S. until federal officials can sort out any dangers immigration might present to the country’s national security.

Trump has come under fire for his controversial stand. On Dec. 9, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and a large contingent of elected officials and civic leaders stood on the steps of City Hall and criticized the bombastic billionaire.

Mark-Viverito used particularly strong language to condemn trump. “There is nothing left to say about Donald Trump except he is a disgusting, racist demagogue who has no business running for president period,” the council speaker said at the rally.

The Trump controversy isn’t the first time the Bay Ridge Unity Task Force has jumped into action to respond to a crisis.

In 2014, after a series of attacks on Muslim Americans in southwest Brooklyn neighborhoods, the task force held a special breakfast meeting in a mosque and started a campaign to promote peaceful co-existence between neighbors.

At the breakfast, which took place at the Beit Elmaqdis Islamic Center, at 6206 Sixth Ave., task force members vowed to work as a group and as individuals to stamp out hate and mistrust by promoting the importance of unity.

During the summer of 2014, there was a series of hate crimes committed against Arab-Americans.

“We are all against hate and we are all against these crimes,” said Dr. Husam Rimawi, president of the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, a mosque at 6807 Fifth Ave. that was a target of an anti-Muslim incident.

A suspect drove up to the Islamic Society during the early morning hours of July 20, 2014 in a car festooned with Israeli flags and played loud music while Muslim worshipers were inside reciting Ramadan prayers.

In another incident, attackers threw eggs at worshipers as they arrived at the Tayba Islamic Center at 2165 Coney Island Ave. for Ramadan services. 

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