Bay Ridge religious groups celebrate unity

Ten years after it was formed, to combat religious and racialprejudice and stereotyping in the wake of 9/11, the Unity TaskForce celebrated a decade of achievement during a breakfast at theBay Ridge Jewish Center (BRJC).

The event, held on Friday, December 9, was emceed by theReverend Khader El-Yateem, the pastor of Salam Arabic LutheranChurch, and speakers included the BRJC’s rabbi, Dina Rosenberg, aswell as Imam Mohammed Albar, the spiritual leader of the IslamicSociety of Bay Ridge. Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello, the pastor ofMary Queen of Heaven Church in Flatlands, delivered aninvocation.

The theme of unity within difference – reflected in thediversity of southwestern Brooklyn, where people with differentreligious and ethnic backgrounds live close together — wasrepeated by many of those who addressed the group, which El-Yateemdescribed as individuals striving to be, True champions of peaceand justice who help us to understand all the difference we have,so we can understand how much we have in common.

Despite our differences, at the end of the day, we all want thesame thing, agreed City Councilmember Vincent Gentile.

The intertwining of cultures lends Brooklyn, and New York ingeneral, a true richness, speakers stressed. We have a tremendousmelting pot here, remarked Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis.This is probably the only place in the world where you canexperience every culture and heritage within a few blockradius.

But, within that diversity is a remarkable similarity. The joyof this meeting is our reaffirmation that all of us are seeminglydifferent yet all of us are the same, noted Brooklyn DistrictAttorney Charles Hynes.

Differences in beliefs and thoughts are part of human nature,added Albar. They do not prevent people from working together forthe common good, to achieve peace, security and harmony forall.

Unity within diversity is the message that the task forcestrives to communicate. It is thrilling for me to come here andsee all of you, said Rosenberg. My blessing is that we can go outand encourage our communities to be together. Then we have done ourwork.

Nonetheless, that work is not always easy. We have to overcomestereotypes, which is very difficult, but it’s happening here, andit’s happening this morning, said Assemblymember AlecBrook-Krasny, who recalled that, as a Jew in Russia, he was alwaysthe other person until he immigrated to the United States.

Some of those who spoke referenced recent anti-Semitic attacksin other parts of Brooklyn as well as past racist attacks such asthe murder of Michael Griffith in Howard Beach 25 years ago. Wedon’t need that in this community, contended State Senator MartyGolden. We are not going to stand for it. We didn’t stand for itin the past. That’s why this task force is so important.

This is the U.N., added task force organizer and longtimeactivist Larry Morrish. We are all together.

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