Building Bridges

Feb 20, 2017
by Avram / MNHTN

In times of struggle, the most important thing you can do is gather your community around you. The second most important thing is to bring communities together. In a country that stands divided, many of us are dreaming of ways to build bridges instead of walls. Last week at BASE downtown Rabbi Avram Mlotek and Sabeeha Rehman transformed this dream into a reality. Bringing together a Jewish community that the Rabbi has worked so hard to build and our Muslim sisters and brothers.


As I walked into the room on this beautifully cold Saturday evening, you could feel the warmth radiating out of the smiles of those there. There was a yearning that seemed to permeate the west village living room, a desire to interact across historical borders that have divided us for generations. In the book lined living room, gathered around a long dinner table, the old feuds were forgotten as we congregated to stare headlong into the rising storm that is the political truth of this country.


With the Muslim ban still fresh on our minds and the propaganda propagated fears of Islam reverberating in the national consciousness, our task was a simple one, meet real people, listen to their stories, and open up our hearts.  I found myself talking with a gentleman whose fears for his daughters reminded me that even in New York, bigotry is common place. We spent the evening discussing strategies in which we could unite to better expose ourselves to those who do not share our skin color or religion. As he spoke, I was reminded of how many of us have come to this electric city with a common dream; to build a better hope for our future.


As we shared a beautiful meal we discussed the strength of our faith, the guiding principles that brought us together, and our plans to continue our commitment to reaching out and providing support for those now targeted by hate. The evening drew to a close over Havdalah candles and marvellous food and by the end of the night I found myself talking with the young man, laughing at the strangeness which had brought our differences together; a silver lining around this political maelstrom we are all caught up in.


It is this laughter that I carry with me as further absurdities and lies break across our newsfeeds. That two young men who in other circumstances might have been found on opposite sides of bayonets and bullets could sit together in laughter with the hope of a brighter future and the unity of a common purpose. As I left that night behind a chorus of shalom and salaam, I walked away with a peace and purpose not often found in our staccato city. A bridge built perhaps, a new community formed. 

Eliot Greene hails from Long Island where he grew up reading Walt Whitman. A graduate from Binghamton and NYU with an MA in Literature, he currently spends his days teaching and out rebounding 6th graders on Staten Island.