A group of concerned moms will gather to host an interfaith event on January 28. We hope it will be the first of many. We will enjoy desserts together, have our children play and sing together, and get to know one another: Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Catholic, Unitarian Universalist, Atheist, Mormon, and more. We want to be part of creating relationships across differences; we want to build up and support the beautiful diversity of our Island through the easy times and the hard times.
I am an Islander, born and bred. Well, technically I was born across the East River in what was then called New York Hospital. My mother’s hospital room faced the Island, and when I arrived, she pulled the shade up so my aunt, who lived here, could see me.
I lived through the 1980’s on this Island. I have vague memories of a man killing his girlfriend in Island House. Another of swastikas carved into a hallway there.
I lived through the 1990’s on this Island: I remember the constant worry that your bike would get stolen, and having to use an umbrella to protect from getting “egged” on Halloween.
I’ve been back for the last four years with my own children.
I share this just to show that I’ve been around the block here. I was here when it was a beautiful, secret, perfect oasis (similar to what many of the relative newcomers describe it as), and I was here when it was a bit more gritty. Both are true to the original purpose of this place.
As I know the story, this Island was an urban experiment in bringing together people from many walks of life – racial, economic, ethnic, religious, and physical ability or disability. While we have retained some of that mix, this Island has become, like our nation, more economically polarized. It’s fascinatingly highlighted here by the original buildings being located mid-Island with the new, more expensive buildings at each end.
And in time, like other parts of the City, as the original buildings turn over at market rates that many of us original Island kids can’t afford, the economic diversity will disappear. And if we’re honest, other forms of diversity will disappear, too.
As all this happens, we may be faced with an even stronger inclination to silo into various identity groups. And it will become more and more important that we not do so.
In my life off-Island, I’m a minister to a Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Westchester. More than they ever have been before, in reaction to the state of the world, my people are committed to meeting across lines – intentionally and with the express purpose of understanding each other better so that we might stand together better in the face of hateful rhetoric and behavior.
It turns out my Island people want to stand together, too. Please join us; everyone is welcome to come. If you can’t make this event, don’t worry. This newly forming interfaith group won’t stop with desserts. Although forces in the works continue to pit us against each other across lines, we have the chance to work in the opposite direction, cultivating meaningful friendships. Please join us.
Sarah Lenzi, Minister