Community iftar brings neighbors together in Bay Ridge

a group of people, including antonio reynoso and andrew gournades, at an iftar celebration.
Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso and State Senator Andrew Gounardes with fellow organizers of the iftar.
Photo courtesy of State Senator Andrew Gounardes

Bay Ridge politicians, community groups and faith-based organizations united together to host a community iftar, with over 1,000 attendees celebrating the Islamic holiday of Ramadan on April 8. 

“I’m overjoyed that Bay Ridge was able to come together as a community and celebrate an iftar with so many neighbors and community organizations after two hard, long years during this pandemic,” said State Senator Andrew Gounardes. “Breaking bread together is a crucial part of our community here in southern Brooklyn, and I really appreciate the chance to share this joyful moment with hundreds of our neighbors after so long.”

Iftar is the ceremonial meal eaten at sundown to break the day’s fast during Ramadan.  The holiest month of the year brings deep spiritual reflection, and taking part in the fast each day from sunrise to sunset is one of the pillars of Islam. With some exceptions, Muslims celebrating Ramadan refrain from eating or drinking anything during daylight hours, rising early in the morning to eat before dawn and usually breaking the fast first with dates.

The southern Brooklyn community members who attended the event at Bay Ridge’s Leif Ericson Park helped themselves to free food, joined a community prayer led by an imam, heard speeches from speakers, and learned about resources available through the neighborhood’s local organizations.

“Celebrating in Leif Ericson Park is going to be a true only-in-Bay Ridge experience,” said local councilmember Justin Brannan. “We will join together to break the fast but the best part of the night will be so many neighbors coming together as one. That’s what this community is all about.”

The Ramadan-centered event was fitting for the Bay Ridge neighborhood which boasts the largest Arabic-speaking population in New York City, but also provides a great opportunity for residents of different backgrounds to come together with their Muslim neighbors. 

“Thanks for coming to the Iftar everyone! The turnout was fantastic, and the YAMA staff had a lot of fun meeting you at our table,” said the Yemeni-American Merchants Association, one of the event’s sponsors, in a tweet.

Thousands of attendees enjoyed free halal food at the April 8 event. Photo courtesy of State Senator Andrew Gounardes.

“Bay Ridge is home to one of the largest and most vibrant Muslim and Arab communities in our city and we are honored to partner on this wonderful iftar celebration in Bay Ridge during the holy month of Ramadan,” said Annabel Palma, chair and commissioner of the city Commission on Human Rights.  “The NYC Commission on Human Rights has and will always celebrate and protect this city’s Muslim communities.”

Organizations that hosted Bay Ridge’s first Iftar included the Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District, the city’s Commission on Human Rights, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, the city Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, the Arab American Federation, the Arab American Association of New York, Bay Ridge Community Development Center and the Yemeni American Merchants’ Association, as well as Gounardes and Brannan. 

“[The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs] is proud to have worked with CBO leaders, community and faith-based leaders, elected representatives, our sister agencies, and others to host the first Iftar event in Bay Ridge!” said Manuel Castro, Commissioner of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “This event provides an opportunity to gather as a community in the traditional Islamic manner and celebrate the richness of Islam. Wishing you all in advance a happy Eid ul fitr celebration.” 

The celebration isn’t over yet — The Arab American Association is partnering with Artisans of Medicine NYC and Muslims Giving Back for two more community iftars later this month, on Monday, April 25 and Wednesday, April 27 at 6pm at the Association’s headquarters at 7111 5th Avenue between Ovington Avenue and 72nd Street in Bay Ridge.