Mosque, synagogue share one roof

Only in New York?

Bronx Ink reports that every weekend a rabbi walks 15 miles from Brooklyn to conduct services at a mosque in the Bronx. For more than two years, members of the Chabad of East Bronx have been worshipping at a shul inside an Islamic Center.

Yaakov Wayne Baumann stood outside a graffiti-covered storefront on a chilly Saturday morning. Suited up in a black overcoat with a matching wide-brimmed black fedora, the thickly bearded 42-year-old chatted with elderly congregants as they entered the building for Shabbat service.

Nothing unusual here except that the green awning above the entrance reads Masjid Al-Iman in bold white letters with an Arabic inscription below. The building is owned by the Islamic Cultural Center of North America, home to the Al-Iman mosque. For the past two and half years, the Chabad of East Bronx, an ultra-Orthodox synagogue, has also worshiped under the same roof.

Sheikh Moussa Drammeh, the center’s founder, offered the space when the Chabad faced declining numbers and economic hardship.

Drammeh also understands the importance of teaching tolerance. That is why fifth-grade students at the center’s Islamic Leadership School are required to participate in an interfaith program organized by the Museum of Jewish Heritage, a Holocaust memorial in Manhattan.

And it seems that he is making a conscious effort to make the school a model for religious tolerance in New York. The Islamic school was originally founded at the nearby St. Helena Catholic Church on Sept. 11, 2001.

“We’re not as divided as the media portrays us to be,” Drammeh said. “Almost 90 percent of Jewish, Muslim and Christian teachings are the same.”

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