Early in December, over 100 people attended the annual breakfast of the Bay Ridge Unity Task Force, a coalition of religious and community leaders to promote ethnic tolerance within the neighborhood.
This is an older story that I missed during my December blog-vacation. Fortunately, it was brought to my attention this week by the Facebook page of Rabbi Dina Rosenberg of the Bay Ridge Jewish Center. The BRJC was the host, and the event was attended by religious leaders such as Rabbi Rosenberg, Imam Sheikh Reda Shata of the Islamic Center of Bay Ridge (profiled earlier by the NY Times), and Khader El-Yateem, pastor of the Arabic Lutheran Church and the Task Force chairman.
Several political leaders were also in attendance – Aslan Media’s Grand Central Stories blog reports on the DA’s comments to the panel:
Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes recalled when the Task Force formed. “We came together eleven years ago during a very scary time,” he said. “We decided we would not let the haters and the bigots do anything in the neighborhood.”
Hynes spoke of recent hate crimes that have taken place in Brooklyn. In Midwood, which is a predominantly Sephardic, three cars were torched and benches and a train station were graffitied with hateful symbols.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle also added comments from police representatives about crime prevention and easing tensions in time of crisis:
There is also a crime prevention element to the task force’s work, according to Police Chief Thomas Chan, the commanding officer of the 13 precincts that make up Patrol Borough Brooklyn South.
“It is very important for all parts of the community to come together,” Chan said.
Prior cooperation pays dividends in emergencies, he said.
“If there is a crisis, it won’t be the first time we have met and talked,” the chief said.
In the wake of the Sept. 11 attack, Bay Ridge was a tense place, according to task force members, who pointed out that the community has a large Arabic population. While there were no reports of violence against Muslims, many Arab residents stated that they were the targets of uncomfortable stares from fellow Bay Ridgeites as they went about their daily business.