Gentile hosts ‘Unity in the Community’
Event Brings Together Christians, Jews and Muslims for Peace
On Monday, Feb. 6, Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) hosted “Unity in the Community,” an all-inclusive event that brought together diverse members from across the borough to help create and enjoy a “unity salad,” — an actual salad and a meal that was made by people of various faiths and ethnic backgrounds.
The event, which took place at the Widdi Catering Hall at 5602 Sixth Ave., was spearheaded by Gentile and fellow Councilmember Carlos Menchaca (D-Sunset Park-Red Hook), who was unable to attend due to prior commitments in Albany. David Estrada, Menchaca’s chief-of-staff, represented the councilmember.
The Bay Ridge Center, Bay Ridge Cares, UPROSE and Reaching Out were among the community organizations that attended. Gentile opened the event by reading a quote from the Dalai Lama that epitomized the event: “Internal peace is an essential first step to achieving peace in the world. How do you cultivate it? It’s very simple. In the first place by realizing clearly that all mankind is one, that human beings in every country are members of one and the same family.”
The goal of the event was to show that the neighborhoods that Gentile and Menchaca represent are multicultural melting pots where individuals from various religious and ethnic backgrounds live in together as one, according to the councilmembers.
Ninetieth Precinct Police Officer Aml Elsokary was the guest of honor at the event. Elsokar is a Muslim cop who was verbally assaulted along with her teenage son in December by a suspect on a Bay Ridge street who shouted anti-Arab slurs at her.
Elsokary spoke on the theme of unity and stressed the fact that everyone wants to live together peacefully and enjoy quiet, normal lives. Officers from the 90th Precinct attended the event to show their support.
Helping prepare the meal were Rev. Khader El-Yateem of the Salam Arabic Lutheran Church; community leader Thomas Neve, executive director of Reaching-Out, a food pantry in Bensonhurst; Ting Ting Fu of UPROSE, an intergenerational, multiracial community organization that promotes sustainability and resiliency through community organizing, education, leadership, development and cultural/artistic expression; and Ruth Masyr of the Brooklyn Jewish Center.
The food was provided by local restaurants Park Asia and Istanbul Bay. El-Yateem added his own touch of seasoning as Gentile tossed the salad in the mixing bowl. Others sliced tomatoes and cut lettuce. Neve, Fu, El-Yateem, Masyr and Maggie Gu of Park Asia helped serve the meal to the attendees.
“This is the Bay Ridge that I know,” Gentile said. “I am proud of our community’s diversity and that is reflected here today. Coming together and sharing acts of kindness reminds us that while we still have a lot of work to do in this country, we aren’t as divisive as the perception may seem to be.”
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