5th Year Anniversary

Gaza at the Heart of Our 5 Year Anniversary Gala

The people of Gaza remained at the heart of our 5 Year Anniversary Gala on Saturday, December 2, which saw us raise $200,000.

While the occasion marked a moment of immense pride as we looked back at all of our accomplishments over the last five years, as well as looking towards some of our upcoming programs, it also served as a moment of heartfelt reflection as we remembered our lost brothers and sisters in Gaza, and those that remain living through the tragedy.

United Message

A united message of love, pride and resilience intertwined all of the evening’s speeches.

The event was MC’d by Michigan Representative Abraham Aiyash, the state’s leader of the House of Representatives.

Rep. Aiyash, who is the highest ranked Muslim American in Michigan’s legislative history, began the evening by acknowledging the unfolding turmoil in Palestine.

“For many of us, our hearts are heavy,” he said.

“We cannot, for the past 50 days, overlook the pain, the sorrow, and the utter destruction in disregard for humanity of our Palestinian brothers and sisters. I would be remiss if I did not start tonight’s program by recognizing all of those lives that have been lost.”

The congressman recently concluded a three day hunger strike with several of his colleagues from around the country, including representatives from Delaware, Oklahoma, Virginia and New York, in solidarity with the people of Gaza.

“While tonight may be heavy, I know that there is still hope,” he added.

Imam Khalid Latif, Executive Director of the Islamic Center at NYU, gave an impassioned rallying cry to continue standing with the people of Palestine.

He expressed his desire to make us the generation that witnesses a free Palestine.

“How do these doctors still get up and go to these hospitals to help these people?” he questioned.

“What are they made of? The people who are at the other end of these relief agencies that we are seeking to assist, they are still getting up to make preparations with the little sustenance that is left to be able to provide provisions for people.”

Relishing the Moment

The evening wouldn’t be complete without a lively fundraiser, led by esteemedcommunity leader, Imam Siraj Wahhaj. His energetic fundraising abilities lead us to raise an impressive $200,000 in donations an

d pledges, this is a significant increase compared to the $120,000 we raised at last year’s Gala. Of the $200,000 raised, 15% will be added to the $70,000 we have already raised for the people of Gaza, which will be donated through our partners, Pious Projects.

Our board member, Dr.Debbie Almontaser also joined us, to give a heartfelt talk dedicated to HRD’s

 hardwork and commitment to overcoming hunger. Among her many

 accomplishments, she is a respected author, speaker, educator and founding principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy.

Addressing the wider room, she said: “I want each and every one of you to feel so proud. To feel proud of what we’re doing to uplift not just our community, but the American Muslim community, the Palestinian community, and many other communities that need us.

“Relish in this moment and be proud of who you are and where you come from, and what you have to contribute to society. I am so, so thrilled to see all of you and your leadership and how you show up and your conviction and your dedication to serving people.”

Building a Better World

Looking to the future, Shareefa Albanna from the United Humanitarian Foundation (UHF) took to the stage to discuss the joint initiative between UHF and us to build Mercy Village.

Mercy Village, which will house people who have been displaced by the conflict, will be built in Hodeida, Yemen, and will consist of 100 homes, a Mercy Bakery and Kitchen, school, masjid and medical center.

Mercy Village, according to Shareefa, is a legacy project that will help families for years to come. “We’re not going to live forever, these homes will go on beyond us,” she said.

“The homes in this village are going to outlast us. The homes in this village are going to consistently have people and residence because Yemen will consistently have poor, impoverished and displaced people in our generation. We are not going to see Yemen come back in our generation, and that’s the sad reality.”

Shareefa said she dreams of a time where we don’t have to ask for money for people who are suffering due to the conflict in Yemen. “We don’t want the people of Yemen to be a homeless humanitarian project year after year, after year,” she said. Rather, we want all Yemenis to have homes without having to solicit aid.

“This project will do just that,” she concluded. “People are provided with fresh water, fresh food, clothing, security, shelter and dignity.”

Proud Palestinian Culture

Attendees were treated to a performance by social media personalities, musicians, and activists, Al-Asala Dabke Group.

The group, who have over 1 million followers on social media, are of Palestinian heritage.

“Today, we wanted to do something a little different,” said Wasef Yasin from the group.

“Palestinian culture and history is very important and near and dear to our hearts, just like the Palestinian cause. We all know what’s happening right now, and our eyes are glued to our phones watching the news 24/7. It is heartbreaking and it is devastating.”

The group, who use their social media following to spread Palestinian and Arab culture through music, continued to give various renditions of musical performances from different eras that are traditional to Palestine.

“A lot of the time, art is a display of pain,” said Wasef.

***

Thank you to everyone who made this evening so special, and to everyone who has helped us empower people and communities from some of the poorest places in the world.

May the next five years be even more fruitful than the last.

The event was held at the Astoria World Manor, Queens, New York.

 

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