Brooklyn Boro

Faith In Brooklyn for November 19: Brooklyn Historical Society chronicles lives of ‘Muslims In Brooklyn’

November 19, 2018 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Zaheer Ali, oral history and director of the Muslims in Brooklyn project. Courtesy of Brooklyn Historical Society/photo credit Maggie Shannon

Brooklyn Historical Society Launches Unprecedented Oral History Project Chronicling Lives of ‘Muslims in Brooklyn’

The Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) will soon launch a multi-year flagship project, Muslims in Brooklyn.

This collection of oral histories is an unprecedented, first-of-its-kind resource that chronicles the extended saga of Muslim Brooklynites in a permanent, searchable, user-friendly digital archive.

Fifty oral histories will be made available to the public on an online listening portal which shares the long, varied history of the highest concentration of Muslims in any geographic area in the United States. The project will launch at a ceremony on Thurs., Dec. 6.

The “Muslims in Brooklyn” project includes a web-based educational curriculum, educational and public programming, an arts-focused exhibition, and dedicated segments on Brooklyn Historical Society’s podcast, Flatbush + Main. This launch of the oral history portal is the first component of the ambitious initiative in progress.

“The oral histories in this collection challenge what we think we know about Muslims in Brooklyn and America at large,” says Zaheer Ali, BHS’s oral historian and Muslims in Brooklyn project director.

“In their own voices, each of the 50 narrators offer uniquely personal accounts of their lives rendered in rich textured detail that defy any flattened portrayals of Muslims, and indeed transcend religious identity,” Ali went on. “Their fears, courage, disappointments, hopes, and most of all deep abiding love for and pride in their families, communities, neighborhoods, and city reveal life experiences that are shared universally.”

Conducted over the course of a year, the 50 oral histories that constitute the Muslims in Brooklyn collection capture the numerous ethnicities, nationalities, neighborhoods and occupations of Muslim Brooklynites.

Those interviewed represent a variety of backgrounds including African American, Yemeni, Egyptian, Palestinian, Moroccan, Lebanese, Pakistani, Kashmiri, Bangladeshi, Tatar, Haitian and Puerto Rican.

Narrators for Muslims in Brooklyn represent 18 neighborhoods in Brooklyn, reflect varying approaches to religious observance in different traditions of Islam, and also represent a spectrum of occupations including religious leaders, medical professionals, community organizers, homemakers, business owners, laborers, musicians, students, educators, artists, and activists.

“Those of us who worked to build the ‘Muslims in Brooklyn’ project have received untold hospitality, generosity and encouragement from the people who shared their oral histories with us,” says Liz Strong, Muslims in Brooklyn public history project coordinator. “They worked hard to represent their lives honestly, and they believe in the importance of sharing their experiences for others to hear, learn from, take comfort in, or be inspired by. It has been an honor to work with them, and we will not shy away from our responsibility to steward their life stories in that same spirit.”

BHS will mark the release of the Muslims in Brooklyn oral history archives with a public listening party on Thurs., Dec. 6 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at BHS, 128 Pierrepont Street. The oral history collection will be made accessible via brooklynhistory.org/muslimsinbrooklyn on Thurs., Dec. 6.

Accompanying public programs, exhibitions, K- 12 curriculum and segments on Flatbush + Main will continue through 2019.

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North Brooklyn Angels Coalition Celebrates its Volunteer Force

The North Brooklyn Angels hosted its first annual “Thanks For Giving” event to celebrate volunteers in the community.

Local volunteers have driven the wildly successful mission and growth of the North Brooklyn Angels to serve almost 1,000 hot meals a week to communities throughout North Brooklyn.

Teams of volunteers run and cook meals out of a dedicated commercial kitchen designed by celebrated restaurant owner Josh Cohen.

This event brings volunteers together to share their experiences with community members who are learning about how to get involved, all while learning about the North Brooklyn Angels’ mission and upcoming opportunities.

The Angel’s formal name, the North Brooklyn Coalition of Neighbors Helping Neighbors, is a coalition of non-profits, neighborhood groups, community organizations, religious groups, churches, mosques, synagogues, tenant associations and businesses that support the idea of working collectively to combat hunger and food insecurity in North Brooklyn.

The Nov. 20 celebration was hosted at Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish Hall.

For more information about the North Brooklyn Angels, visit northbrooklynangels.org or follow us on Facebook and Instagram @northbrooklynangels

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Popular German Folk Singer Brings Early Christmas to Brooklyn Heights

“The superstar of folk music,” German bass Ronny Weiland comes to Brooklyn Heights on Mon., Nov. 26 for a Christmas concert at Zion German Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Zion Church’s Pastor Klaus Gress welcomes the entire neighborhood to the free 7 p.m. concert which will feature themed songs of the season. (Voluntary donations are welcome.) Afterwards, attendees will enjoy Christmasstollen and Gluewein for refreshment.

Weiland grew up and was educated in Apolda, German Democratic Republic, where he showed early musical talent, and played the flute. He trained as a stone mason and sculptor, and performed in the army music corps.

Weiland experienced the start of his singing career while performing at a birthday party. He then studied voice at the Franz Liszt Academy Weimar. His first solo concerts followed in 2005. He recorded the first CD on “Bach Recording.”

Since 2006, he has appeared at festive events and also experienced first German national appearances together with other folk music artists. He won first place in the Federal Music Competition “Superstar of folk music” 2008. His debut album “Russian Soul” was released by Ariola/Sony Music.

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From the Brooklyn Eagle Archives of 1944

Thousands Packed Dedication Mass Of Brooklyn’s New Maronite Church

“Thousands Attend Dedication of Maronite Church on the Heights” was the headline on the religion section of the Brooklyn Eagle from November 27, 1944. This sanctuary was formerly the Church of the Pilgrims [featured on this page last week in a history piece about the 50th jubilee of the Rev. Dr. Richard Salter Storrs as pastor of that congregation.]

The Eagle story began, “A new page in the centuries-old church history of Brooklyn, in its familiar history as ‘the City of Churches,’ was opened yesterday when the former Congregational Church of the Pilgrims, at Remsen and Henry Sts., was dedicated as the new Our Lady of Lebanon R.C. Church of the Maronite Rite.”

At that point, the writer may not have clearly understood that the church is actually the Eastern Rite (rather than the Roman or Latin Rite) of St. Maron.

“Solemn and colorful ceremonies marked the dedication by the Most Rev. Raymond A. Kearney, S.T.D, the Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn. Several thousand individuals attended and many hundreds, unable to gain places in the crowded pews, stood or knelt during the two and one-half hours of services at which Bishop Kearney presided.”

The Eagle article continued, “The transition of the history of the church, which makes it the religious home of hundreds of Brooklyn families whose ancestors came from what is now the Republic of Lebanon, lying between Syria and Palestine at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, was called ‘an epic poem of the Land of the Free,’ by the Rev. Dr. Thomas J. McMahon, national secretary of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, who delivered the sermon.” Fr. McMahon reflected on Isaiah 35:2, extolling the “glory of Lebanon” and “beauty of Carmel and Sharon.”

[Editor’s Note: In 1944, what is now the State of Israel (established in May, 1948) was still called Palestine.]