How Trump Spurred Muslims And Jews To Eat Together — And Build Bridges

picture1-1466692203On the February night that President Trump unveiled his travel ban on immigrants from Muslim countries, Samir Malik, a 31-year-old tech developer whose parents are from Pakistan, was on his way to dinner in Brooklyn.

Text messages buzzed on his phone. Activist friends of his were on the way to JFK airport to protest. He worried, would his friends and family be affected?

Malik found comfort in the Orthodox Jewish family of six that had invited him to dinner.

“How are you feeling? Do you feel cared for?” his Jewish host asked Malik and his wife, also Muslim, with roots in India.

The gesture was encouraging. The dinner was part of an initiative to bring together Muslims and Jews for small home-cooked meals through New York City. There have been two rounds of these interfaith dinners since February, each drawing around 100 participants.

“The idea is for people who don’t interact as much to have an opportunity to get to know each other,” said Lonnie Firestone, a Modern Orthodox Jew and freelance writer from Brooklyn who is spearheading the effort.

The genesis of this project for Firestone was the election of Donald Trump, which shocked many liberals. On the heels of a divisive and polarizing campaign season, Firestone wanted to organize something that would bring people together.

“Trump’s campaign had fostered an inhospitable environment toward Muslims and to a lesser but still notable degree toward Jews, I felt that Jewish and Muslim Americans should become better advocates for one other,” Firestone said.

Interfaith work like this, of course, is not new. But bringing Jews into Muslim home, and Muslims in Jewish homes for home-cooked meals, felt both urgent and untested to Firestone.

The dinners are organized alongside a string of New York organizations, both Jewish and Muslim. Participants have come from Brooklyn’s Congregation Beth Elohim; the progressive “GetOrganizedBK” group; the Altshul minyan, an egalitarian Brooklyn minyan also in Brooklyn; the Prospect Heights Shul ; the Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee; the Islamic Center at NYU and a group called Muslim Urban Professionals.



Anger and apathy from Brooklyn Muslims over NYPD spying report

src.adapt.960.high.1377927742177On Friday afternoon at the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, a large mosque and community center in an especially diverse neighborhood of Brooklyn, Muslim men double-parked their cars and ran from adjacent storefronts to catch the start of the 1 p.m. prayer.

As the interior of the mosque filled up with more than 100 people, those left outside began claiming space on the sidewalk, using Arabic-language newspapers as substitutes for prayer rugs.

It was a normal Friday, except that many in attendance were a little more tense than usual. This was the first Friday prayer following the release of documents by The Associated Press that showed several mosques in New York, including the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, had been labeled as suspected “terrorist enterprises” by the New York City Police Department (NYPD), and were under the department’s watchful eye for years.

The AP also revealed in 2011 that the NYPD was keeping several Muslims under surveillance, but the new revelations came as a shock to many in the Bay Ridge Muslim community, who said they’ve had nothing but good relations with the police.

But to others, the documents were just another sign of a continually worsening relationship between what they say is an overly suspicious NYPD and Muslim-Americans just trying to go about their lives.