STAR OF BROOKLYN: Khader El-Yateem

Khader El-Yateem, Pastor at Salam Arabic Lutheran Church,Chairperson of the Board for the multicultural unit of the LutheranEvangelical Church in America, board member of Community Board 10,board member of the Arab-American Association of New York,community liaison for the Arabic community at Maimonides MedicalCenter

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: It is difficult for El-Yateem to discussthe work he does without mentioning the neighborhood residents heassists, both out of his obligation to the church and a personaldrive to help people. My work is really centered around reachingout to different communities and building bridges, he said,adding: My love and passion is serving our community and makingsure our community is being taken care of.

PERSONAL: El-Yateem moved to the U.S. from Bethlehem in 1992, toattend Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. He admitsthat becoming accustomed to American culture was a struggle. I was22, and it was challenging to learn the culture and the system,El-Yateem said. Thank God I had great mentors and friends who tookthe time to help me become the person I am today. After graduatingfrom seminary in 1995, he was appointed to his current role aspastor at Salam Arabic Lutheran Church in Bay Ridge. El-Yateem ismarried with four children, three girls and a boy. His wife Graceis the school nurse at P.S. 204. He says his family is verysupportive when it comes to his job. They see me in the church,El-Yateem explained. They know my work is very demanding and Ineed to be out in the community to serve their needs.

JOB: El-Yateem is quick to point out that his role as pastor ismore than just a profession. It’s not a job, he said. It’s acalling that you have to be ready to serve and go the second mile.The pastor answered his spiritual call as a teenager. The lastyear of high school was when I started feeling a strong calling,El-Yateem recalled. I had a great pastor who mentored me a lot andsaid ‘I think you have a gift. You should go to seminary.’

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: There are three major challenges thatEl-Yateem faces in his current role at the church. With thecurrent economy, [collecting church] income has been difficult, hesaid. Another challenge is the demand has been huge just torespond to the needs of the community. The third challenge would beto train people who are willing to be volunteers and help carry theload.

MOST DISTINCTIVE CHARACTERISTIC: According to El-Yateem, hismost defining attribute is his love of simplicity. I like thingsto be simple and manageable, he said. It’s an aspect that he hasfound invaluable in his work. We have been faced with many, manychallenges and bringing a message of simplicity has helped us tomake the issues we deal with more manageable, El-Yateem said. Thisstraightforward approach can be observed in his proposed solutionsto local problems. We need to focus on our similarities to be ableto move forward as a community, he said.

INSPIRATION: El-Yateem traces one of his major inspirations backto his great grandmother, who still looms large in his thoughts.To be honest with you, the only thing always in the back of mymind is my great grandmother and the influence she had in my lifewith her stories she told, he said. She would always gather usunder the olive tree and tell us stories of our culture, ourcommunity. Regarding exactly what it was that El-Yateem’s greatgrandmother instilled in him with her stories, his answer istwofold. She always put in us the fear of God and love of family,he said.

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