Faith In Brooklyn for June 28
City Leaders Pledge to Support Muslims at Brooklyn Iftar
“It is an act of resistance for us to come together. It is an act of resistance for us to support each other wholeheartedly. It is an act of resistance for us to show deliberate kindness to all of our neighbors.”
These were the words of state Assemblymember Tremaine Wright (D-A.D. 56, serving Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights). She and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon (D-52nd A.D. stretching from Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn to Gowanus, parts of Park Slope and Prospect Heights) were among several speakers at an outdoor iftar last Friday, June 16.
An iftar is the meal at sundown when Muslim communities break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan, a month marked by fasting and prayer.
The New York City Commission on Human Rights, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit and Mayor’s Center for Faith and Community Partnership co-hosted the Second Annual Iftar in the City. Spokespersons for the Commission on Human Rights told the Brooklyn Heights Press that last year’s event was held in Manhattan. Friday’s took place in Columbus Park, which stretches from Borough Hall Plaza to the Post Office on Cadman Plaza West. Long tables were set up to accommodate more than 600 participants.
This event was the second outdoor iftar in a public arena to be held in Downtown Brooklyn within a week. A June 10 iftar was held on the north end of Cadman Plaza Park. Interestingly, the podium at the June 16 event was placed a few feet from the statue of Henry Ward Beecher, himself a famous 19th-century minister, preacher, and social reformer who supported the abolition of slavery and women’s suffrage (right to vote).
New York City’s outdoor interfaith iftar reflects the city’s commitment to rejecting Islamophobia and continued efforts to ensure that New Yorkers of all faiths are respected, welcomed and safe in New York City. Last year’s Iftar in the City brought together more than 300 individuals from across the city’s diverse and interfaith communities. This year, the attendance projection of 600 was easily met.
The Rev. Dr. Chloe Breyer, executive director of the Interfaith Center of New York, pointed out in opening remarks that, for centuries since medieval times, “the center of moral and spiritual gravity for cities on this planet were cathedrals, the synagogues, churches and mosques. Now, in a democratic society, we embrace diversity. What is it that can be the spiritual center? I think it is moments like tonight, where we have embraced the particularity of one tradition, and we open it to all. And we translate the particularities one of one tradition into the embrace and inclusivity that our public squares require.”
Ilyasah Shabazz, activist, educator and author of “Growing Up X,” said, “The rhetoric has come to a fever pitch. Fear and anxiety pervade our news, our workplace and even our personal interactions. What can we as Muslims do to help?”
Answering her own question, Shabazz continued, “Ramadan is a time of sacrifice and reflection. Through our sacrifice we learn we’re making a choice to give up food when others can’t eat. We pray when others have lost faith. And we make an effort to come closer together through our shared values. While others see a benefit in our destruction and our conflict … and neighbor can be pit against neighbor, Islam is peace, and that peace is needed now more than ever.
“We are Muslims and we are Americans,” Shabazz declared. “The two are not exclusive. Our values are American values, and we have a duty to use our voice in our day-to-day lives to teach others why we all are sons and daughters of Abraham.”
One of the most poignant moments was the applause when Tamika Mallory saluted and pledged support for Linda Sarsour, a Brooklyn-born activist who has been the target of hate and threats. Sarsour, Mallory and Bob Bland were co-organizers of the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington.
“We know that there has been a great deal of anti-Muslim rhetoric around this country,” said Mallory. “There have been marches. There have been speeches that have come from the highest leader of America. But we will not stand for that. We stand here this evening to say this is our nation. Those of us who are of moral conscience, of good deeds, of full belief in what democracy looks like in America, we stand with you and for you.”
Pledging to protect Sarsour from harm, Mallory asked in return that Sarsour stand up for black brothers and sisters, “particularly today, as we saw the officer who shot and killed Philando Castile be allowed to walk free without punishment for shooting a man to death for nothing. This was not a thug. This was not a criminal,” she exclaimed. “This was a man who worked for the schools, teaching and loving our children. If we cannot protect him, then whom can we protect?”
Mallory declared, “It is not one of us, it is all of us, who are under attack at the same time, at the same place, all over the land. If we do not stand together, and protect one another, and be willing to speak on one another’s behalf, then we will all perish in this nation. It is up to all of us to be the protectors, and be each our brother’s and sister’s keeper.”
She asked the entire gathering to stand up for and shield her 18-year-old son, “an unprotected black male, an endangered species in this country.”
Other speakers included: Rama Ibrahim Issa, executive director, Arab American Association of New York; Rabbi Michael E. Feinberg, executive director, Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition; Marco Carrión, commissioner, Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit; Jonathan Soto, executive director of the Center for Faith & Community Partnerships; NYPD Detective Mohamad Amen, who chanted the Call to Prayer; Imam Adam Othman, Masjid At-Taqwa Mosque; Carmelyn P. Malalis, commissioner, New York City Commission on Human Rights; and Bitta Mostofi, assistant commissioner, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.
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Love Locks Become Symbol of Church’s Commitment to Paris Climate Accord
The First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn last Sunday affirmed its commitment to support the Paris Climate Accord that the Trump administration had rejected earlier this month.
During the June 12 worship service, Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons, senior minister, preached a sermon of hope that this move by the Trump administration would motivate the people of the planet to action. Rev. Levy-Lyons’ sermon imagined several scenarios — one in which Hillary Clinton had been elected president, another in which President Trump did not pull out of the accord. In each scenario, the people did not rise up to protect our planet. Calling the accord “a covenant with the world,” Rev. Levy-Lyons preached, “We must act. Therefore, we will.”
Congregations were given “love locks” fashioned after the locks lovers attach to bridges all over the world as an expression of their undying affection. Following the service, each First Unitarian family wrote onto the paper lock at least one task they promised to do to protect the planet and to affirm the congregation’s commitment to the Paris Covenant. The paper locks were then attached to the church’s fence.
“We plan to keep them there for a day or two and then move them indoors, where they will be displayed,” said Garnett Losak, First Unitarian’s director of congregational life. “It is important to us that the community sees what we stand for and how we put our faith into action.”
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East Brooklyn Congregations Group Demands Solutions for Local issues
More than 1,500 residents of East and Central Brooklyn bore the heat on a June weekend and packed a Crown Heights church to demand solutions to neighborhood concerns and issues. They are part of East Brooklyn Congregations (EBC), an umbrella organization that includes congregations, schools and homeowners associations. EBC leaders have spent months carefully documenting piles of trash, drug dealing, speeding cars, crumbling apartments and run-down parks in neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn.
Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, NYPD Brooklyn North Assistant Chief Jeffrey Maddrey, Sanitation First Deputy Commissioner Dennis Diggins and representatives of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) were in attendance to answer EBC leaders’ questions and make public commitments.
EBC is part of the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), the largest organization of congregations, schools and homeowners associations in the city. EBC and Metro IAF have built or renovated 5,431 Nehemiah homes and apartments, started seven new public and charter schools and led thousands of actions to improve the lives our families and neighborhoods.
“Last June, more than 1,500 of us packed into my church, Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church in Bed-Stuy,” said the church’s pastor, the Rev. Shaun J. Lee. “We pledged to fight to improve and protect our neighborhoods one block — one speed bump, one trash can, one safe lobby and one affordable apartment at a time. Today we report on that pledge. I’m glad that our commissioners will come to answer questions and show us respect. I look forward to teaching the mayor how to do the same.”
Trottenberg reported that 13 intersections are getting pedestrian safety improvements, including the installation of the speed bump on Lincoln Place in front of Epiphany Lutheran School.
Diggins reported on nine intersections that already had new trash cans installed or were cleaned up by the Department of Sanitation. Silver said that construction has begun on the $2.9 million bathroom at Green Central Knoll park in Bushwick this week.
Maddrey renewed the NYPD’s commitment to work with EBC in the nine Brooklyn precincts.
Although HPD Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer was not in attendance, EBC has a long relationship with her. It was reported that 81 single-family Nehemiah homes were sold during last six months and another 83 single- and two-family homes are up for lottery beginning in July.
“East Brooklyn Congregations was born in a moment of great crisis for our city,” said the Rev. David K. Brawley of St. Paul Community Baptist Church. “We helped defeat skyrocketing murder rates, arson and corrupt school boards. Every Nehemiah home, new school and safe corner is a testament to our success. Our city survived because of our leadership. We’re ready to offer this mayor a real plan to meet the new housing crisis of skyrocketing rents, homelessness and a lack of affordable housing for families and seniors.”
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Local Chapter of Organists Salutes Beloved Chaplain
The American Guild of Organists-Brooklyn Chapter named the Rev. Peter Cullen as its 2017 Person of the Year 201 during its annual banquet, held this year at Moldova Restaurant in Midwood. Fr. Cullen, longtime rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Carroll Gardens, was honored for his service as chaplain from 2014-2017.
The Brooklyn Chapter’s Person of the Year award was established in 2004, to recognize non-organists who have supported and promoted appreciation for that king of instruments—the pipe organ, and the rich organ repertoire dating back millennia. During the past 13 years, the honorees have included builders and restorers of organs; preservationists and educators, clergy; and journalists, including celebrated NY Times editor Craig R. Whitney, who is the author of “All the Stops: The Glorious Pipe Organ and Its American Masters.”
The very first pipe organ invention—called a hydraulis—actually dates back to the 3rd century B.C.E, thanks to a Greek engineer named Ctesibius, who lived and worked in Alexandria, Egypt. Although most of the knowledge of this instrument was lost during the fall of the Roman Empire, the pipe organ reappeared in the 8th century C.E. (A.D.) so has existed in various forms for more than a millennium.
Moldova, this year’s banquet venue, is named for a country that has as its borders Romania to the west and the Ukraine to the east. Although landlocked, Moldova is near the Black Sea and its natural borders include two rivers. Fish is part of the Moldovan cuisine, which owes its rich variety to the different ethnic groups which have traversed the region. The country has a robust wine industry. Polenta (mamaliga) and brynza (a goat cheese) are staples.