NY Jews, Muslims gather for Ramadan dinner in Brooklyn mosque

A hundred people, including 10 prominent Jewish leaders and their Muslim counterparts, gathered at a Brooklyn mosque for the fast-breaking Iftar meal.

Rabbi Behrman, Rabbi Avtzon, Imam Rasheed Jaaber host, imam Muhammad Jaaber from New Jersey, Mark Appel at Ramadan Iftar event in Brooklyn (photo credit: YAAKOV BEHRMAN)
Rabbi Behrman, Rabbi Avtzon, Imam Rasheed Jaaber host, imam Muhammad Jaaber from New Jersey, Mark Appel at Ramadan Iftar event in Brooklyn
(photo credit: YAAKOV BEHRMAN)

In his first coordinated public event since taking office last month, New York Assemblyman Brian Cunningham hosted a Ramadan dinner Wednesday night. 

Although Cunningham was unable to attend in person because of a court ruling that required urgent legislative action, close to 100 people, including 10 prominent Jewish leaders and their Muslim counterparts gathered at a Brooklyn mosque for Iftar, the daily Ramadan fast-breaking meal, which featured kosher and halal middle eastern dishes including chicken stew, couscous, hummus, baba ganoush and baklava. 

“We can live in despair or hope,” Cunningham said in a statement ahead of the event. The Democrat assemblyman – who started his term on March 30, representing Brooklyn’s 43rd district including Crown Heights – said that “Ramadan is a month of light and joy, and it is the perfect opportunity to celebrate what brings us together.”

The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting and reflection. Those who observe fasting eat two meals a day: before sunrise and after sunset. 

Imam Rasheed Jaaber, who leads Masjid Kawthar, the Crown Heights mosque where Wednesday’s event was held, spoke to the crowd about what the religions share in common. He said the event “bridges the gap between the communities.” 

 Imam Rasheed Jaaber speaking at a Ramadan Iftar event in Brooklyn (credit: YAAKOV BEHRMAN) Imam Rasheed Jaaber speaking at a Ramadan Iftar event in Brooklyn (credit: YAAKOV BEHRMAN)

“The Jewish community and Muslim community are so much alike. We are the children of Abraham,” Jaaber said. "Our culture, our dress, everything is similar. There’s no reason that we should not be unified."

Rabbi Yaakov Behrman, a Crown Heights resident and founder of the Jewish Alliance who attended the event, told The Jerusalem Post that it was "a tremendous show of unity; we are all one people.”  

While Hassidic Jews represent about a quarter of the Crown Heights population, Muslims make up only about 2%.