Posted March 28, 2019
Our Torah commands: “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). Moreover, our tradition teaches us that all of us are created in the image of God. Jews have so often been the target of discrimination and violence. For this reason, we are all the more sensitive to the pain of other communities when they are targeted. Just as we fight for freedoms and values important to our community, we honor and stand up for others who have been attacked.
We were horrified when we learned of the terrorist attacks on two Christchurch mosques in New Zealand on March 15. The murder of fifty Muslim worshippers and the injuries to many more elicited heartache and grief from our community, and it demanded an affirmation to our neighbors.
That afternoon a small group from Central gathered to show support for worshippers coming to and from our neighboring mosque, the Islamic Society of Mid-Manhattan on 55th street. Sadly, a few days later, we learned that a kitchen fire at Omar’s Mediterranean Cuisine (a halal restaurant) right next to the Islamic Society had devastated the restaurant and damaged the mosque. When the group joined together again March 22 to show support, it became clear that the damage from the fire was more extensive than previously realized, and that the many dozens of worshippers waiting outside might not have a place to pray. We offered the use of Central’s pavilion for their afternoon services, and Imam Ahmed Dewidar graciously accepted. As you may have seen in some recent media reports, nearly 600 worshippers came to pray at Central last Friday afternoon. The Imam said it was the holiest moment he has experienced in New York. It was an honor to serve our Muslim neighbors in their time of need.
In response to the New Zealand attack, Central responded in other ways as well. On Tuesday, March 19, Rabbi Buchdahl and Rabbi Salth joined a larger group of leaders organized by the New York Board of Rabbis for a condolence visit to the Islamic Cultural Center of New York with their Imam, Sheikh Saad Jalloh. Lastly, we have been in close touch with Imam Tahir Kukaj from the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center and are offering support for their community as they – with many other mosques – are faced with rising security concerns and costs. Tahir (and other interfaith clergy) stood with us here at Central not so long ago in support of the Jewish community during our interfaith prayer vigil with Governor Cuomo following the horrific attacks in Pittsburgh.
Together we will continue the process of healing and building a world where hate will not win. In our own small corner of the world, we will be providing support to Islamic Society mosque so that they can begin the process of rebuilding.
Kein y’hi ratzon, may it be God’s will.
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