Berill Barna brought all six of her children, including her 1-year-old daughter, across the Bronx from Parkchester to Riverdale on Dec. 9 to celebrate Hanukkah. She and her family are Muslim, but Ms. Barna said exposing her children to another faith was invaluable.
“It’s important to see other religions and holidays, to see they’re just like us and have the same God,” she said.
In a climate where she perceived both faiths as more separate than ever, Ms. Barna found it essential to put this fellowship into perspective for her children.
“It’s the 21st century. We were never this divided [before],” she said.
During the fourth night of Hanukkah, Jewish families from Kingsbridge’s Congregation Tehillah welcomed Muslim families from the Masjid Al-Iman mosque in Parkchester to celebrate and find solidarity.
The interfaith gathering took place at the Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture at 4450 Fieldston Road. Organizers cited rising anti-Muslim rhetoric throughout the country as an impetus for the event.
“With everything going on, we just really wanted to reach out because we have the relationship,” said Wendy Levinson, the project coordinator of the Interfaith Teen initiative at the Riverdale Y.
Using a small grant provided by the United Jewish Appeal Federation, The Y was able to create the interfaith program connecting youth from both congregations. There has been a variety of activities, including planting and cleaning. This is the third Hanukkah the children have celebrated together.
“Last year was much more formal,” noted Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn of Congregation Tehillah. “We told the kids they had to be like real hosts and they had to greet and make sure the guests had enough to eat and this year, it felt we didn’t need to do that. It was much more relaxed.”
Sheikh Musa Drammeh of Masjid Al-Iman said the children maintain good relationships because they realize they have so much in common.