One week after the massacre in New Zealand, UJA brought together the Jewish community along with our Christian neighbors to line the entrances to mosques and welcome worshippers to their place of prayer. The following are dispatches shared by UJA staff from mosques across New York, Long Island, and Westchester.
As I was removing my shoes to enter the prayer space at the Islamic Center of Long Island, a Muslim woman approached me. I told her that we were there because we stand together in peace against hate. She embraced me tightly, crying in my arms before thanking me and going to pray.

Rebecca Saidlower
Executive Director
Community Lab/Mobile
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The sermon at the Islamic Center covered some very powerful and resonant teachings about how Islam requires adherents to spread peace, to feed the hungry (everyone, not just Muslims), to connect to one’s brothers and sisters (the broader community) and to do all things with intentionality (similar to the concept of kavanah).

On the way out a woman took my hand and said, “May is the month of Ramadan. Please keep us safe.” It was heartbreaking and yet so clear what our presence meant and why we need to stand together.

Rebecca Katz-White
Planning Director
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Where we stood at the Makki Masjid in Brooklyn, I overheard one man saying, “I’m overwhelmed; this is so incredible,” as he narrated a live video to social media. Waqil Ahmed of the Pakistani American Youth Organization said to us, “We really needed this. It means so much for you all to be here.”

I only hope that in the future we can stand in solidarity with our neighbors in celebration of something wonderful. Until then, I am thankful we can be there for one another.

Michael Vilarello
Director, Brownstone Brooklyn
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At our site in lower Manhattan, I approached a woman in line with us wearing a hijab with tears in her eyes. She was visiting from Finland and her uncle had been shot in the New Zealand attack.

She was incredibly moved by this gathering. And for a moment I felt some cosmic healing on behalf of humanity.

Adina H. Frydman
Executive Director, Community LAB/Resources

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Over and over this afternoon before the prayer service in Mt. Vernon, I heard these statements:

“You cannot tell who here is Muslim and who is Jewish.”
“We clearly see ourselves in one another’s eyes.”
“This is like a family reunion.”

There were tears, and solidarity, and names, and hope. There was so much love. You cannot have been present today in the cold and rain, and yet not have caught the rays of a certain kind of light. Perhaps even a tiny glimpse of olam ha-ba. 

Hinei ma tov u’ma na’im

May “the goodliness of our tents” and all of our holy dwellings merit safety and shelter beneath the Presence of peace.

Andi Rosenthal
Community Mobilizer, Westchester
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At the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center on Staten Island, we met almost everyone who arrived to pray. We saw just how much the Muslim community’s diversity reflected our own. As the center’s congregants arrived, Imam Tahir would welcome each one of them and tell them about the Jews who came to stand with them in solidarity. There was a great sense of mutual appreciation for us being there.

Alex Bebeshko
Director, Philanthropic Services