Voices in Focus: Public Art, Soccer and Interfaith Harmony

Three feature stories from the ethnic and community media caught our eye this morning:

* The rapport between two dads watching their sons play basketball together has led to an unusual partnership in downtown Manhattan — a brand-new synagogue holding services in a 246-year-old Episcopal church. Tamid: the Downtown Synagogue will hold monthly Sabbath services in St. Paul’s Chapel, a church where many 9/11 rescuers prayed, the Tribeca Trib reported.

The relationship with St. Paul’s, part of the Trinity Wall Street parish, was sparked on the Battery Park City basketball court, where [Rabbi Darren] Levine and the Rev. Mark Bozzuti-Jones of Trinity Wall Street watched their sons play basketball, neither knowing the other was clergy. Then came the discovery.

“Oh, my God, you’re a rabbi? You’re a priest,” Bozzuti-Jones recalled. “It was easy from there. Because we already had that friendship, we had that bond.”

At a Sabbath service on May 18, church representatives welcome the new synagogue’s congregants.

With yarmulkes donned, candles lit and Hebrew prayer books in hand, some 70 Lower Manhattan residents came together for the first time as congregants of Tamid: the Downtown Synagogue.

“On behalf of Trinity Wall Street and St. Paul’s Chapel, we are thrilled you are here,” Trinity Wall Street’s vicar, the Rev. Canon Anne Mallonee, told the congregation during the May 18 Sabbath service. “We are excited to have you gather here as the first New York synagogue to begin in the 21st century.”

Former professional players from El Salvador play a key role in the development of Long Island's soccer leagues. These include Oscar Ajuria, Sergio Valencia and Wilman Gonzalez. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Menjivar via EDLP)

* El Diario La Prensa ran a piece on Latino soccer culture on Long Island, where many Spanish team names reflect the heritage of their Latino players.

Football, more than a sport, is a means of community organization in the emerging Central American community in the area. The Long Island Junior Soccer League has registered at least 125,000 young people from 9 to 19 years, divided between about 80 clubs, explains Sergio Valencia, a former member of the National Team of El Salvador who has for eight years run a sports program for the Economic Opportunity Commission of Nassau County.

Valencia was also one of the founders of the New York Latin Soccer Association (NYSLA), a nonprofit entity created in 2004 to open spaces accessible to the Hispanic community for the sport. Of the 300 students attending NYSLA, between 5 and 16 years, 80 percent are from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and other countries with a strong demographic presence in Long Island, as confirmed by the treasurer, Francisco Guerrero.

* Lastly, the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s call for artist proposals for two stations on the 6 line subway inspired El Diario to look back at subway art created by Latino artists:

More than a dozen Hispanics have worked with Arts for Transit, including Argentinian Liliana Porter, Mexican Andrea Arroyo, Uruguayan Ana Tiscornia and Puerto Rican Raul Colon.

The work of Arts for Transit is timeless, and some, with transparent elements, are windows to see the landscape change over time. At the stop Beach 25 St – Wavecrest, the colorful stained glass “Past / Present / Future” (2011) by the Colombian Mauricio Lopez is a good example.

“I wanted to make an abstract work that relates to those who have lived in Rockaway for years and colors that reflect the culture of everyday life,” says this resident of Brooklyn.

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