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Long-time Ridge activist and former Council candidate leaving boro • Brooklyn Paper

Long-time Ridge activist and former Council candidate leaving boro

Skipping town: Bay Ridge political activist Rev. Khader El-Yateem is moving to Florida after more than two decades in Brooklyn.
File photo by Stefano Giovannini

This would-be councilman has sunnier days ahead.

Bay Ridge political activist Rev. Khader El-Yateem — who narrowly lost his bid for the neighborhood’s Council seat to Councilman Justin Brannan in last September’s Democratic primary — is trading the County of Kings for the Sunshine State.

The Arab-American faith leader is moving to Florida next week to head an outreach program similar to those he ran out of his Salam Arabic Lutheran Church in the Ridge, but said he’ll always have a soft spot for the Brooklynites he’s leaving behind.

“It’s bittersweet, but it’s a really great opportunity to have a bigger voice with issues such as social justice and making the churches more transparent and welcome to immigrant communities,” El-Yateem said.

The reverend, who settled in Bay Ridge in 1995 after immigrating from the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in 1992, is confident he’s leaving the neighborhood in good hands, he said, and proud of the community-building he and his colleagues accomplished, even if there is more to do.

“What I have seen over the past two years is a huge number of people becoming more involved and engaged. It gives me a lot of hope,” he said. “But I see that our community continues to also be fragmented, and I hope the people here to continue to work to bridge the gap.”

Earlier this month, El-Yateem and a handful of other activists launched a new political club Yalla Brooklyn — translated to “Let’s Go Brooklyn” — that encourages civic involvement among immigrants and refugees, and he assured that activism won’t stop when he leaves the County of Kings.

“It is going full swing with candidate forums, political work, education, and voter registration,” the reverend said.

But it’s not goodbye forever to Bay Ridge, according to El-Yateem, who said he’s keeping his house in the neighborhood and won’t rule out moving back one day.

“You never know what’s going to happen down the road — I have deep roots here in Brooklyn, I’m sure one day I will come back,” he said.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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