The Baha’i Center of Nassau County celebrated 10 years in Valley Stream on June 26, and members of the group said the time has strengthened the center’s ties to the village.
“Baha’is all over the world are engaged with their fellow citizens and town members to work around building the community life at the very grassroots level, which engages and embraces and invites everyone, no matter what race, faith group or age,” said Farah Rosenberg, a continental counselor for the Baha’i Faith.
Rosenberg said that Valley Stream represented the oneness of humanity — a key tenet of the Baha’i Faith — in its incredible diversity.
Mayor Ed Fare presented the Baha’i Center with a citation that declared June 26 “Baha’i Day” in the incorporated village. “It’s very, very clear to me that the Baha’i, and this group and congregation and people, have become part of our community,” Fare said.
The monotheistic religion originated in 19th century Persia, and before the opening of the center in Valley Stream, most practicing Baha’is were meeting to worship at each other’s homes.
Janet Chimino, chairperson of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the Town of Hempstead, said that a lot has changed since the center first opened.
“At the beginning, it was about, ‘OK, let’s bring people in.’ But then we realized it’s not really what it’s about,” said Chimino, of Merrick. “That’s kind of an old congregational mentality … we’ve changed since then. Our vision is now about going out and becoming part of the community. Building something greater than our own community. Building the spirit and the fabric of Valley Stream.”
The center welcomes people of all faiths each Friday evening, and also hosts a children’s theater workshop, which Chimino said has received a lot of support from young people in Valley Stream.
Joseph Renna, a member of the of the Baha’is of the Town of Hempstead, said that building interest in the religion among younger people is something he’d like to work on in the next 10 years. Renna said many children are “booked solid” with activities, but for those who don’t have the financial resources for things like soccer, baseball and karate, the Baha’i Center could try to create groups to fill the need. He also noted that since the center opened in the village, people have come in off the street to learn about the faith.
Janet Reed, treasurer of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the Town of Hempstead, said that establishing a center in Valley Stream has helped legitimize the faith in Nassau County, and after 10 years they have also finished paying their mortgage for the West Jamaica Avenue property. Reed, who lives in Lawrence, said that that was especially noteworthy because Baha’i spiritual law forbids them from accepting donations from non-Baha’is.
“It’s heartwarming that we were able to do this, it’s wonderful that we can be in Valley Stream, because we could’ve been anywhere,” Reed said. “We looked for property for decades, so why we landed here? I think it’s because of the diversity of the community. We were told that Valley Stream is the most diverse community on Long Island. And because of what we believe — the oneness of humanity — we’re in a great spot.”