Gathering for peace and understanding with the Unity Task Force

Bay Ridgeites of all religious beliefs and ethnic backgrounds stood united during the annual Unity Task Force Breakfast on August 19.

This year, the event, sponsored by Maimonides Medical Center, took place at the Beit Elmaqdis Islamic Center, 6206 Sixth Avenue. Leaders of various religious groups were joined by local dignitaries and individuals from local businesses, such as Investors Bank. The main topic of the morning was the hate crimes committed over the past few months against the Muslim community as well as other groups.

“I’m very happy to be part of the next generation of Unity Task Force members to keep Bay Ridge the wonderful community that it is,” said Linda Sarsour, executive director of Arab American Association of New York, who expressed dismay about the recent spate of anti-Muslim actsRabbi Dina Rosenberg of the Bay Ridge Jewish Center shared Sarsour’s concerns. “I feel like lately there is lots of tension,” she said. “We tend to think about us and them. We forget to think about people, especially in Bay Ridge, where we have this dichotomy of different people.”

Local politicians took the stage as well. Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis brought up various recent crimes. “We’ve had a Greek church that was vandalized. St. Anselm had their Virgin Mary statue destroyed. The Jewish Center has also been attacked Despite recounting the discouraging incidents, the speakers also discussed an optimistic future for the community. “What’s happening around the world has created tensions here and strong emotions here so we need to be beacons of light,” said Councilmember Vincent Gentile. “The fact we have people from the Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities all here together proves we can be a light for our community.”

“My blessing for all of us is that we could help our community realize what it means to be human. And instead of thinking of all the bad things going on in the world, think about how we can unify as a people and how we can be the example for everyone else,” added Rosenberg.

The Unity Task Force was formed in the wake of 9/11, as part of an effort to quell religious and racial prejudice and stereotyping.

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