Southern Brooklyn

Community Iftar held in Bay Ridge’s Leif Ericson Park

April 12, 2022 Jaime DeJesus
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Bay Ridge is Home to NYC’s Largest Arabic-Speaking Population

On Friday, April 8, more than 1,000 people came to Leif Ericson Park in Bay Ridge to attend a community Iftar featuring free halal food, a communal prayer led by Imam Dr. Mohamed Elbar from the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, and more.

Iftar is a meal taken by Muslims at sundown to break the daily fast during Ramadan. According to the Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District, the neighborhood is home to the largest Arabic-speaking population in New York City.

Traditional Muslim prayer is being held at Leif Ericson Park. Facebook photo courtesy of Councilmember Justin Brannan

The evening was hosted by several organizations including the Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District, the NYC Commission on Human Rights and the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge. It was co-hosted by State Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Councilmember Justin Brannan

“The Bay Ridge 5th Avenue BID is excited to work with our local non-profits and elected officials to bring this community Iftar to our commercial corridor,” the BID said in a statement. “We are honored to share in the spirit of giving with our friends and neighbors throughout the Ramadan season.”

According to USA Today, Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islam calendar, a holy month devoted to prayer and fasting.  Muslims believe that Ramadan is meant to strengthen their relationship with God. 

Ramadan involves fasting, praying and being around loved ones. This year in the U.S., it’s being celebrated from Saturday, April 2 to Sunday, May 1.

“Ramadan is the most important time of the year for Muslims all over the world, and the Arab American Association of New York is so excited for the chance to celebrate it with our friends and neighbors in Bay Ridge,” said Marwa Janini, executive director of the association. 

“Sitting down for an Iftar with our fellow Muslims, Community leaders, and our neighbors of all faiths and from all corners of the world will bring us all closer together as we celebrate what Ramadan is about —  faith, service, and community,” she added.

Annabel Palma, chair and commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights, added that Bay Ridge is home to one of the largest and most vibrant Muslim and Arab communities in New York City 

“We are honored to partner on this wonderful Iftar celebration in Bay Ridge during the holy month of Ramadan,” she said. “The NYC Commission on Human Rights has and will always celebrate and protect this city’s Muslim communities. These past two years have been difficult for our city and the world, and we look forward to joining again in the community to break bread together.”

Borough President Antonio Reynoso, State Sen. Andrew Gounardes and others at the Bay Ridge Iftar event. Photos courtesy of State Sen, Andrew Gounardes

Gounardes said that it was a welcome celebration following the height of the pandemic.

“Breaking bread together is a crucial part of our community here in southern Brooklyn, and I really appreciate the chance to share this joyful moment with hundreds of our neighbors after so long,” he said. 

Other organizations that co-hosted the event were the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, the NYC Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, the Arab American Federation, the Arab American Association of New York, Bay Ridge Community Development Center and the Yemeni American Merchants’ Association.

“Celebrating in Leif Ericson Park is going to be a true only-in-Bay Ridge experience,” said Brannan. “We will join together to break the fast but the best part of the night will be so many neighbors coming together as one.”

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