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A Rabbi, an Imam, and a Pastor Walk Into a Museum…

Museum of the City of New York to host an event focused on faith in the five boroughs

Emma Davis
November 14, 2017
Via Flickr
The Museum of the City of New YorkVia Flickr
Via Flickr
The Museum of the City of New YorkVia Flickr

New York City is known for its unexpected encounters, from subway meet-cutes to celebrity spottings. In an ongoing speaker series for the Museum of the City of New York, journalist Sarah Maslin Nir hopes to recreate these “only-in-New-York” moments and the conversations that arise from them. Nir’s latest event is this evening’s “Faith in the Five Boroughs,” during which she’ll lead a rabbi, an imam, and a pastor in a discussion of religious tolerance.

“You can’t be a faith leader in New York and not acknowledge that it’s a place for the many,” Nir said of the three panelists, who have each worked to bridge divides in their communities. As director of the world’s largest LGBTQ synagogue, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum has demonstrated in solidarity with New York Muslims and encouraged her congregants to ally against Islamophobia. Similarly, Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center started a “twinning” movement to unite mosques and synagogues and co-authored a memoir with Rabbi Marc Schneier. Lastly, Pastor Kenneth Hart hopes to spread the gospel to both “the gentrified and the gentrifier” in his hometown of Central Harlem.

Nir’s speaker series accompanies the Museum’s first permanent exhibit, “New York at Its Core,” which chronicles the city’s past and provides visitors with the tools to plan its future. As “the gallery of the now,” Nir said her events “look at New York as it is, in all its grit and glory.”

During the panels, “we sit on the couch and drink wine and sort of make it light, but underpinning it is a tremendous depth,” explained Nir, a staff reporter for The New York Times. “These aren’t just questions for the city; they’re questions for our souls.”

As a “kosher Conservative atheist” and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, Nir considers herself the “skeptic” among her interfaith guests. “I think New Yorkers have always been pragmatic about faith, and we’ve put our money where our prayers are,” she said.

However, “like in any good conversation in New York, you remain open to being changed,” Nir added. And with that, she invited guests to enjoy the “crossing of worlds” and beer from Harlem Blue at this evening’s event.

Faith in the Five Boroughs” will be held on November 14, 2017 at 7 PM at the Museum of the City of New York (1220 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY). Tickets are $25 for non-members.

Emma Davis is a former editorial intern at Tablet and has written for NBC News,, and the Huffington Post Blog.