By Pamela Silvestri
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The first of two shipments of 2,000 pounds of halal lamb meat arrived at Project Hospitality Wednesday afternoon in Stapleton.
The facility at 514 Bay St. is Staten Island’s largest soup kitchen and food pantry, one that has seen increased demand for halal foods as the borough’s Muslim population grows.
Accepting the delivery were three Staten Island religious leaders — the Rev. Terry Troia for Project Hospitality, Imam Tahir Kukiqi and Rabbi Gerald Sussman. The Imam hails from the Staten Island Albanian Islamic Cultural Center in Tompkinsville and the Rabbi from Congregation Temple Emanu-El of Port Richmond.
“This occasion is perfect — a symbol of unity, of serving people and fulfilling their needs,” said Imam Tahir.
And, with Rosh Hashanah and Eid Al-Adha, a Muslim holiday that celebrates the Sacrifice of Abraham, the Imam reminded of the prophet. (The Arabic word “Eid” means “festival” and “Adha” translates to “sacrifice.”)
“Abraham is the father of all prophets — he was very generous, he used to feed people,” he said. And same is the mission here with the halal lamb trucked to Stapleton.
“The most important thing today is that you have representatives of the three largest religions who are often portrayed in the news as fighting with each other,” said the Rev. Troia. “Interfaith Project Hospitality is here to serve all people — [the effort] communicates a message of all of us ultimately being one.”
The meat shipment comes courtesy of ICNA Relief, a Queens-based group that is the largest Islamic relief organization in the Northeast. Director Arshad Jamal said that ICNA Relief collected money from fellow New York City residents for the halal donation which arrives in time for Eid Al-Adha.
Jamal said, “As New Yorkers, we always think beyond differences. We see ourselves as one. The differences are not our scope. We see what is challenging for all of us.”
The lamb meat was slated originally as a gift to the Staten Island Albanian Islamic Cultural Center, says Imam Tahir. The Center, located at 307 Victory Blvd. in Tompkinsville, includes a mosque and school that runs from Pre-K through 12th grade.
“So ICNA Relief contacted me as we have the school,” explained Imam Tahir.
“They said they’d like to bring the gift to the school. But it was more important to donate to people in need…initially we were talking about less than 1,000 pounds. I said, listen. There’s a need here on Staten Island. So now we have over 2,000 pounds of meat,” said the Imam.
Last year, the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center donated 400 turkeys to Project Hospitality.
As further backdrop to this story in a mission of outreach to fellow Staten Islanders: Imam Tahir is in charge at the Tompkinsville school. Founders of the Center are Dr. Zurkani Vardari and Ferid Bedrolli.
“Behind the building of this beautiful center was to build a center to serve Staten Island — regardless of faith, race and ethnicity,” says Imam Tahir.
Bedrolli and Dr. Vardari acquired the Tompkinsville property in the early 1990s. They bought a former HIP Center and built the mosque in 1994. The school opened on Sept. 22, 1999. Since then, the Center arranges discussions among religious leaders around the Island — one is coming up on Oct. 10th at the Center to have Catholics and Muslims connect — and “Community Days,” a stretch of days that encompasses open invitations to houses of worship around the borough.
Rabbi Sussman said of the meat donation: “When in the time of the year in the Jewish calendar we emphasize charity, prayer and repentance it means all that more to us. We have an image of all the deeds of the world being weighed on two sides…We just added [a ton] to the good side. Hopefully the world will benefit cosmically.”
The Stapleton food pantry is open Tuesdays from 9 to 11 a.m. and from 1 to 3 p.m., additionally on Thursdays from 9 to 11 a.m. Soup kitchen hours are on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m to 1 p.m. All Staten Islanders are welcome to use the pantry so long as they provide a zip code upon entry.
Article Courtesy: Staten Island Live