We sat patiently, awaiting the breaking of the fast. The dining tables were laden with dates and water, then rosewater milk and fruit to be served prior to the sunset prayer and Iftar dinner during the sacred month of Ramadan. It was a generous invitation from the community of Jaan'e Masjid Bellmore — to those of us neighbors in the community beyond its doors.
While the sun faded in the sky, while chilly breezes whipped around the outdoor tent erected in the parking lot for such a celebration, there was small talk among the sisters. We talked of the history of the mosque, the symbolism of the foods to be served, the garb, the speeches. Then we started to ask real questions of each other, removing judgments which, up until now. were based solely on the way we looked to one another. We talked of the work we each do beyond being mothers and wives, the number of children we raised or were raising. And, if the conversation lulled, we filled the time cooing at babies or dodging preschoolers who brought life to the festivities around us.
It had been a long while since I was a guest of a local mosque — about eleven years ago when high school students of our temple's religious school met with teens at the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury. At that event, the students were there for a structured program to discuss beliefs, answer each other's questions and witness/partake in afternoon prayer. But like this night in Bellmore, the objectives were the same: to learn, talk and understand each other to contribute to a bigger, more peaceful world.
I considered that day so long ago, recalling the memory over and over again as I waited for nightfall. And just like that day, more than a decade ago, when my teenager recognized fellow classmates from East Meadow High School, I sat in Bellmore beside an East Meadow mom whose four children most likely shared their school days with my own children throughout McVey Elementary, Woodland Middle School and East Meadow High. Nothing is certain but it is very likely our lives have intertwined, long before we sat down on those folding chairs to break bread on this festive holiday.
Fate? Perhaps. Divine intervention? Who knows. I'd like to think it's more simply explained — two neighbors sharing common ground in a little corner of the world.
A contributing writer to the Herald since 2012, Lauren Lev is an East Meadow resident and a direct marketing/advertising executive who teaches advertising and marketing communications courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology/SUNY, LIU Post and SUNY Old Westbury.