Ramadan Mubarak: Downtown organization hosts dinner to honor volunteers helping immigrants and refugees

Dinner time: A refugee family from Iraq enjoyed their meal with the Arab-American Family Support Center’s director of community outreach, Ahmed Alfaraji, and executive director, far right, Rawaa Nancy Albilal at the May 24 iftar.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

This dinner was served to those who serve.

A Downtown organization that provides Arab immigrants and refugees with support services hosted a Ramadan dinner at their Court Street headquarters on May 24 to honor the people, volunteers, and organizations making a difference in their community.

“We’re celebrating the doers — the ones that see a need and help out and show compassion,” said the executive director of the Arab-American Family Support Center, Rawaa Nancy Albilal.

The iftar — the evening meal at which Muslims break their day-long fast at sunset during the month of Ramadan — celebrated the organization’s own volunteers, along with those from local organizations New York Cares and Kids for a Better Future, who all serve more than 6,000 people annually through the organization’s language, health, and literacy classes, plus their counseling and legal services, among others.

The meal — featuring chicken with herbs and spices, samosas, and saffron rice from the nearby Yemen Café — began with the adhan, the Islamic call to worship that signifies the times for the five daily prayers. Rabbi Marcelle Hohl and Father Joseph Nugent, from the neighborhood’s Saint Paul’s Church, also gave interfaith blessings, which Albilal said underscored both the spirit of Ramadan and the importance of bringing people of different faiths together.

“The interfaith blessing goes with the action-oriented initiative because it takes all of us to make a difference,” she said. “Ramadan is about peace, harmony, and knowing one another. There’s a verse in the Quran that says, we made you in different languages and different cultures so you can know one another.”

Local leaders — including the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, Bitta Mostofi — mingled with youngsters, the organization’s volunteers, and some of the refugee families that the organization’s director of community outreach, Amed AlFaraji, helps resettle in the borough through its New Immigrants and Refugees Fund.

The organization’s board chairman, Joseph Botros, said the Arab-American Family Support Center’s longtime home in the borough is the perfect place for it to continue to thrive, since Kings County’s inhabitants come from all around the world.

“Brooklyn is a melting pot,” he said. “We try to bring people together.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.

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