Sisterhood Blog

'The Velveteen Rabbi' on Raising Money for Mosque Repair

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share
flickr.com
‘The Velveteen Rabbi’: Rachel Barenblat

It’s not every day that New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof cites a rabbinical student, but Rachel Barenblat won that distinction on Sunday, when the writer mentioned her recent success raising money so that a vandalized Queens mosque could replace its damaged prayer rugs.

On August 25, a drunk man entered an Astoria, Queens mosque, called the worshippers there terrorists and then urinated on their prayer rugs. Apalled, Barenblat tweeted about the incident and someone reading her Twitter stream suggested that they find a Queens synagogue interested in donating money to pay for new carpets.

Instead, the 35-year-old posted on her blog, “The Velveteen Rabbi,” a request for donations to be passed along to the Al-Iman mosque, to pay for a steam-cleaning of its prayer rugs.

Barenblat posted the idea on Friday afternoon. By late Sunday, when she decided to stop collecting funds, $1,180 had come in from 65 different donors. “It struck a chord with people, because they started posting the link and re-tweeted, and the money started pouring in,” she told The Sisterhood. Donors included people who identified themselves as Jews, some Christians, a few Muslims and Buddhists, and “at least one pagan,” she said.

“Most of the donations were $18 or smaller, there were a lot of $5 and $10 dollar donations,” she said. “It went viral in a small way. Sixty five people isn’t hundreds of thousands, but it’s more than I would have reached on my own, and God knows I couldn’t have made a $1000 donation to anybody. I too am in the $18 donation camp.”

After sending the mosque a check with a note listing the donors, she received an email from the mosque acknowledging the donation.

Barenblat says that she is deeply committed to ecumenical work. Now in her last semester of rabbinical school in the Jewish renewal movement’s Aleph rabbinic training program, she is also a poet and mother to 9-month-old son Drew. She and her family live in a tiny Berkshire town near Pittsfield, Mass.

Last year Barenblat took part in a multi-denominational retreat of ten Jewish and ten Muslim clergy-in-training. “We spent a few days discussing the Joseph/Yusuf narrative, and I came away really wanting to do more Jewish-Muslim dialogue work,” she said.

What lesson has she taken away from her successful inter-faith fundraising effort? “Part of what was amazing about this was seeing that a lot of people doing something small can create something much bigger,” she said.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Rachel Barenblat, Nicholas Kristof, Muslim, Mosque

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.