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New York, NY - Jews and Muslims Co-Exist Peacefully on the Streets of Brooklyn

Published on: January 18, 2011 08:36 PM
By: The Guardian /  Le Monde
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Brooklyn, NY - The man at the till is wearing phylacteries (amulets) under his shirt. Abundant payot – the sidelocks worn by Orthodox Jews from eastern Europe – spill out from under his black kippa. Some of the waiters are also Jewish, but others are Latinos. But the cooks are all Orthodox Jews. The food, a mixture of central European and Middle Eastern dishes, is strictly kosher. What is more surprising is the clientele: Jews rub shoulders with Muslims who choose to eat here because the food is good value and kosher, and thus close to halal standards set by Islam.

The Famous Pita restaurant, on Coney Island Avenue, is in one of the few neighbourhoods in New York’s Brooklyn borough where Jews and Muslims live side by side. On several blocks the co-existence of the two communities is even more apparent, with a succession of synagogues, mosques and social centres. Usually, however, the two communities live apart, with ultra-Orthodox Jews sticking to their own neighbourhoods, and Muslims, who are relative newcomers, more dispersed. In keeping with tradition, they tend to gather in specific districts.

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The co-existence in Brooklyn is noteworthy for several reasons. Terrorist attacks by Muslims resident in the US have recently increased. Meanwhile, Islamophobia is on the rise – witness the hostility to the Islamic cultural centre near Ground Zero – with conservative Jewish groups playing an active role. Last, Brooklyn (2.6 million) has the world’s second-largest Jewish and Muslim population, after Jerusalem. The US census makes no specific reference to religious belief, but an estimated 550,000 Jews live in Brooklyn, almost half of whom are ultra-Orthodox. Between 200,000 and 300,000 Muslims, mainly from the Indian subcontinent, live here too. They form the second-largest group of recent immigrants, after Hispanics, and their number is growing steadily, unlike the dwindling Jewish community. Jews and Muslims make up a third of the borough’s residents.

So how do they get on, particularly as various external factors – not least the Middle East conflict – supposedly fuel mutual distrust? The Jews have been here since the 19th century, whereas the Muslims arrived more recently. And the prevailing mood in the US is much more friendly towards the former than the latter. But on the whole there are few problems.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems remote. The overall priority, from the White House down to community groups, is to prevent any flare-ups. Certainly “some mosques are closely watched by the FBI, which we know also protects Jewish centres more closely”, a Muslim leader admits. In 2007 several Jewish pressure groups were active in opposing the opening of an Anglo-Arabic school. In November 2006 five Jewish youths yelling “Muslim terrorists” beat up a young Pakistani. He needed reconstructive facial surgery. The following year a group of Muslims seriously assaulted a rabbi.

But such acts are mercifully rare and the authorities are careful not to overplay their importance. Marty Markowitz, the borough president since 2002, has taken the same line as his predecessor Howard Golden. Both are Jewish and have allocated substantial funds to fostering Jewish-Muslim dialogue and Muslim empowerment. “Dialogue between Jews and Muslims is often non-existent because of Israel,” Markowitz admits. “What’s more, the two communities live side by side here, with their respective traditions but without mixing. But you can make a lot of progress by upholding principles such as mutual respect and equal rights.

“I see more and more Muslims taking part in social life. The future is looking good.” He highlights one surprising point, particularly for a non-practising Jew: “Mutual respect is easier to achieve between believers than with the others.” He reckons that among those who believe in a single deity, “no one will be shocked by a woman wearing a burka or a man in a Schtreimel hat and a frock coat”.

Some Muslims, faced with a fairly hostile environment, fall back on religion, but most are escaping from the closed world they left behind. Mohammad Razvi arrived here from Pakistan as a child. In 2002 he set up the Council of People’s Organisation, which defends the rights of Muslim immigrants from the subcontinent. He also actively co-operates with Jewish groups. On his desk is a photo of a Brooklyn barber’s shop. A sign in the window reads: “Hindi, Yiddish and Punjabi spoken.” He sees this as a symbol of what he wants to achieve. “When we heard about the attempted attack on two synagogues by radical Muslims, I was the first to call for a march. The rabbis Robert Kaplan and Michael Miller immediately endorsed the idea,” Razvi says. The two rabbis head the Jewish Community Relations Council. “It made sense: when Jewish youths attacked a Muslim child, the rabbis were also the first to protest,” Razvi adds.

At Eichlers, the World’s Judaica Store, the manager Moshe Perl has a ready-made explanation: “God tells me to love my neighbour as myself. Fortunately for me, it is a lot easier here than in the Middle East.”


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1

 Jan 18, 2011 at 08:50 PM Anonymous Says:

Kudos

2

 Jan 18, 2011 at 09:00 PM Anonymous Says:

I passed this barber shop on Coney Island Ave. - the heart of a Moslem area that says in the window “Hindi, Yiddish and Punjabi spoken.” I thought that was amazing.

3

 Jan 18, 2011 at 09:01 PM Secular Says:

The cooks are not orthodox jews, they are Latinos. The orthodox jews who you see are the mashgichim

4

 Jan 18, 2011 at 09:23 PM OichMirAMaivin Says:

I wonder where “G-d tells me to love my neighbour as myself." iz geshriben.

5

 Jan 18, 2011 at 10:25 PM harvey Says:

i only hope so

6

 Jan 18, 2011 at 10:38 PM Anonymous Says:

I live very near to both Famous Pita and Mo Razvi's Council of Peoples Organization and within the neighborhood there is true co existance. Torah Umesorah even has an office opposite the neighborhood mosque on Coney Island Ave in the heart of the Pakistanian community..

7

 Jan 18, 2011 at 10:53 PM awacs Says:

"phylacteries (amulets) under his shirt"?

8

 Jan 18, 2011 at 11:09 PM Anonymous Says:

Phylacteries under his shirt? Last time I looked, 'phylacteries' = 'tefillin'. I think the author should do some fact-checking. I suspect the author meant "tzitzit".

9

 Jan 18, 2011 at 11:09 PM Mark Levin Says:

The author is incorrect in calling it islamophobia as according to the dictionary a phobia is an irrational fear. In this case the fear is NOT irrational.

10

 Jan 19, 2011 at 12:18 AM avraham Says:

Sure! Muslims are happy to Co-Exist with Jews in NY or any other city in the world. The problem is that Jews are supposed to be in Israel. Let's see the Muslim "tzadikim" make an effort to Co-Exist with us in Israel.

11

 Jan 19, 2011 at 12:24 AM charliehall Says:

Reply to #9  
Mark Levin Says:

The author is incorrect in calling it islamophobia as according to the dictionary a phobia is an irrational fear. In this case the fear is NOT irrational.

How is it rational? How many immigrants from the Indian subcontinent have ever attacked Jews in America? You are just defending your evil bigotry.

12

 Jan 19, 2011 at 12:25 AM Charlie Hall Says:

Reply to #9  
Mark Levin Says:

The author is incorrect in calling it islamophobia as according to the dictionary a phobia is an irrational fear. In this case the fear is NOT irrational.

We have a large number of Muslim immigrants from the Indian subcontinent (and also from Eastern Europe) in the Bronx, too. I wish they would open a kosher Indian restaurant in the Bronx so that I don't have to go to Manhattan.

13

 Jan 19, 2011 at 12:32 AM Anonymous Says:

Thanks for publishing this story, VIN. Nice to hear a positive story like this.

Right outside of Boro Park - McDonald Ave., & Church Ave. vicinity, there is a Muslim community that also has a good relationship with their Jewish neighbors.

14

 Jan 19, 2011 at 01:08 AM Joe-Shmoe Says:

Islamophobia is a liberal word! When anybody terrorizes me, I fear him, despise him, and there is nothing wrong with it! I am entitled to it. Don't give it a name and give it a menacing degrading, etc. definition just to prove you are smart. Loving your enemy is not dumb. it's stupid!

Just like this metabolism thing. All the overweight people got a disease called metabolism which is to blame for their hearty appetite. OHHH SSSSHHHH it's not their appetite causing them to gain weight. it's their um uuummm uuuuummmm I dont know how to explain it. that's whats causing their weight gain. After all they always drink a diet drink with their 2 pack dubble burger snack.

Name calling and thereby rationalizing the wrong, is a disease and should be banned.

15

 Jan 19, 2011 at 04:45 AM Ivrianochi Says:

You think this is nice? Come to Stamford Hill,London where the biggest mosque and the biggest syngogue in the community are next door to each other. Where the Muslims and Jews work together,live together and eat together!
THE WAY IT SHOULD BE!

16

 Jan 19, 2011 at 06:45 AM DizzyIzzy Says:

What does "close to halal standards" that kosher food is mean?

Are they saying that many Muslims don't keep strictly to Halal, or that all kosher food is halal?

17

 Jan 19, 2011 at 07:02 AM Tzi_Bar_David Says:

I try not to bring the problems of overseas here; after 9/11 I can't look at them without a deep undercurrent of fear and avoid them as best I can.

18

 Jan 19, 2011 at 07:05 AM bigmoe Says:

Great article, although it does not surprise me at all. I have long maintained that Muslims are not inherently anti-semitic in the same way that Christians and Catholics. Just look at the history of Jews living in Arab/Muslim countries prior to the Mandate.Their beef with us is purely terratorial. They believe that we are in their land and being Arabs they do not understand the concept of compromise.

19

 Jan 19, 2011 at 07:25 AM DB Says:

Reply to #4  
OichMirAMaivin Says:

I wonder where “G-d tells me to love my neighbour as myself." iz geshriben.

V'ahavta l'reiacha kamocha Rabbi Akiva omer zeh klal gadol ba'Torah

20

 Jan 19, 2011 at 08:08 AM chabakook Says:

Reply to #18  
bigmoe Says:

Great article, although it does not surprise me at all. I have long maintained that Muslims are not inherently anti-semitic in the same way that Christians and Catholics. Just look at the history of Jews living in Arab/Muslim countries prior to the Mandate.Their beef with us is purely terratorial. They believe that we are in their land and being Arabs they do not understand the concept of compromise.

Check your facts sonny. My parents are both from north africa, and thet don't speak lovingly of their arab neighbours. In fact, ghadaffi yimach shemo from libya, completley wiped out any zecher of yiddiskeit ever to hvae exisited there. My grandmother is from libya.

21

 Jan 19, 2011 at 08:11 AM ALLAN Says:

Reply to #16  
DizzyIzzy Says:

What does "close to halal standards" that kosher food is mean?

Are they saying that many Muslims don't keep strictly to Halal, or that all kosher food is halal?

Muslims will accept kosher as Halal. Halal is not accepted as kosher.

22

 Jan 19, 2011 at 08:18 AM ALLAN Says:

This is a good article. Most Muslims in the USA are too busy trying to make a living to be involved with any of their neighbors in a negative way. It is the radical element within their communities that may present problems. This comment is not anti Muslim , but anti radical Muslim.

23

 Jan 19, 2011 at 08:31 AM Anonymous Says:

There are a lot of commercial transactions which go on between Arabs and Jews not only in Eretz Yisrael, but also with Muslims in other countries, many of which are officially hostile to Israel. However, this commercial activity is not broadcast, to the outside world. As one Israeli stated, when he was asked about such activities, "business is business". In addition, many Arabs from all over the Middle East, use the medical services of the Hadassah Medical Center in Yerushalayim, for varous treatments.

24

 Jan 19, 2011 at 09:17 AM PrettyBoyFloyd Says:

Reply to #18  
bigmoe Says:

Great article, although it does not surprise me at all. I have long maintained that Muslims are not inherently anti-semitic in the same way that Christians and Catholics. Just look at the history of Jews living in Arab/Muslim countries prior to the Mandate.Their beef with us is purely terratorial. They believe that we are in their land and being Arabs they do not understand the concept of compromise.

Jews were NOT treated well under Muslim rule, a great misconception many Jews love to point out, only not as bad as under the Christian/Catholic idol worshipors.

25

 Jan 19, 2011 at 09:18 AM charliehall Says:

Reply to #15  
Ivrianochi Says:

You think this is nice? Come to Stamford Hill,London where the biggest mosque and the biggest syngogue in the community are next door to each other. Where the Muslims and Jews work together,live together and eat together!
THE WAY IT SHOULD BE!

There is also a narrow residential street in the Bronx where a synagogue is directly across the street from a mosque. There have been no problems.

In Morocco, Jews and Muslims would cook their food next to each other in the same communal kitchens.

26

 Jan 19, 2011 at 09:21 AM Charlie Hall Says:

Reply to #14  
Joe-Shmoe Says:

Islamophobia is a liberal word! When anybody terrorizes me, I fear him, despise him, and there is nothing wrong with it! I am entitled to it. Don't give it a name and give it a menacing degrading, etc. definition just to prove you are smart. Loving your enemy is not dumb. it's stupid!

Just like this metabolism thing. All the overweight people got a disease called metabolism which is to blame for their hearty appetite. OHHH SSSSHHHH it's not their appetite causing them to gain weight. it's their um uuummm uuuuummmm I dont know how to explain it. that's whats causing their weight gain. After all they always drink a diet drink with their 2 pack dubble burger snack.

Name calling and thereby rationalizing the wrong, is a disease and should be banned.

These South Asian immigrants haven't terrorized anyone and aren't our enemies. You are just rationalizing your bigotry. And you are *not* entitled to it; the Torah requires that we be mentchen, not bigots.

Fear and hate Hamas and Hezbollah, not these kind people.

27

 Jan 19, 2011 at 09:22 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #12  
Charlie Hall Says:

We have a large number of Muslim immigrants from the Indian subcontinent (and also from Eastern Europe) in the Bronx, too. I wish they would open a kosher Indian restaurant in the Bronx so that I don't have to go to Manhattan.

Nice to hear that there are still Jews left in the Bronx.

28

 Jan 19, 2011 at 09:23 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #15  
Ivrianochi Says:

You think this is nice? Come to Stamford Hill,London where the biggest mosque and the biggest syngogue in the community are next door to each other. Where the Muslims and Jews work together,live together and eat together!
THE WAY IT SHOULD BE!

Ah such nachas!

29

 Jan 19, 2011 at 09:35 AM Isaac1 Says:

Reply to #9  
Mark Levin Says:

The author is incorrect in calling it islamophobia as according to the dictionary a phobia is an irrational fear. In this case the fear is NOT irrational.

That's because, according to the rules of political correctness, you must always balance the scales. So if you have terrorists blowing up women and children, you must balance it with Israel's "occupation" crime. If you're going to report Muslims dancing in the streets on 9/11 (saw it myself), you must balance it with... well, I can't come up with something, but I'm sure some intellectual will have a rejoinder. The point is that there must always be moral equivalence. To do otherwise would shake the entire foundation of the liberal (am I engaging in name calling, or perhaps being "vitriolic"?) mindset.

30

 Jan 19, 2011 at 10:45 AM Mr_Leslie Says:

The American Muslims are educated in American values, which includes religious tolerance. Their religion has room to allow tolerance for other faiths except idol worship. I am not a Muslim but a modern Jew, and because I live in Montreal Canada, I am in contact with a melting-pot of ethnicities and find wonderful experiences and richness and peace of mind in living here.

31

 Jan 19, 2011 at 11:04 AM webmom1800 Says:

Reply to #4  
OichMirAMaivin Says:

I wonder where “G-d tells me to love my neighbour as myself." iz geshriben.

This pasuk is either in sefer vayikra or bamidbar, can't remember which...the pasuk is : "veahavta lreacha kamocha"!!!

32

 Jan 19, 2011 at 11:28 AM Truth Says:

Reply to #19  
DB Says:

V'ahavta l'reiacha kamocha Rabbi Akiva omer zeh klal gadol ba'Torah

It's only by Yidden, you Am Haaretz!

33

 Jan 19, 2011 at 11:34 AM Anonymous Says:

Sometimes it really is possible for humans to coexist!

34

 Jan 19, 2011 at 11:45 AM liberals-are-nuts Says:

Reply to #11  
charliehall Says:

How is it rational? How many immigrants from the Indian subcontinent have ever attacked Jews in America? You are just defending your evil bigotry.

You liberals are so twisted its scary. No one said indians attacked jews in america, I we should be concerned about muslims in general there is no doubt there is a muslim problem all over the world. And that's why liberal like you are so out of reality. Ask Wan Williams.

35

 Jan 19, 2011 at 12:20 PM The Professor Says:

Hello? What many may be overlooking is the fact that the people from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India may practice Islam, but are not Arabs. They are Indo-Aryans, whose traditions are much more tolerant. In Mumbai, there is a courtyard where a shul, a church, a mosque, and a Hindu temple have co-existed in peace for hundreds of years. In general, even Arab Muslims get along with Jews in the U.S., as neither can call America their divinely given inheritance. It gets sticky in Israel because practioners of both faiths believe with all their heart that each of them are entitled to the same pieces of real estate.

36

 Jan 19, 2011 at 01:14 PM charliehall Says:

Reply to #34  
liberals-are-nuts Says:

You liberals are so twisted its scary. No one said indians attacked jews in america, I we should be concerned about muslims in general there is no doubt there is a muslim problem all over the world. And that's why liberal like you are so out of reality. Ask Wan Williams.

Mark Levin basically said that it is rational to fear these immigrants. You have just proven that it is he, not me, who is out of reality.

37

 Jan 19, 2011 at 03:27 PM mnmys1987 Says:

Reply to #10  
avraham Says:

Sure! Muslims are happy to Co-Exist with Jews in NY or any other city in the world. The problem is that Jews are supposed to be in Israel. Let's see the Muslim "tzadikim" make an effort to Co-Exist with us in Israel.

Jews are suppose to live everywhere in the world, because we are in golus, even those Jews living in EY are in GOLUS.

38

 Jan 19, 2011 at 07:11 PM kalman1 Says:

Reply to #32  
Truth Says:

It's only by Yidden, you Am Haaretz!

how do you know its only by Jews.

39

 Jan 19, 2011 at 10:29 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #34  
liberals-are-nuts Says:

You liberals are so twisted its scary. No one said indians attacked jews in america, I we should be concerned about muslims in general there is no doubt there is a muslim problem all over the world. And that's why liberal like you are so out of reality. Ask Wan Williams.

But republican nutcases will blame every Muslim for the actions of a few, even when those Muslims are not even from the same country!

40

 Jan 20, 2011 at 05:45 PM MAMAROCHEL Says:

Is that how a basement in Midwood turned into a terrorist cell before 9/11? Right around the corner from my house, a Jewish family rented out their basement to "Israelis". How shocked they were when the FBI raided the basement & found a computer with direct communications with Bin Ladin, Yemach Shemo!!!! Peacefull coexistance is only to try to convince us to let down our guard.....so that when they are ready....WE ARE NOT!!!!!

41

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