March 17, 2013 By Bill Parry
Three mothers of different faiths and cultures spoke to a captivated audience on Thursday night at the Turkish Cultural Center’s event “Can We Give our Children Strong Religious Identities Without Condemning Others?”
In short, the women each said yes. But they arrived at the conclusion in a different way.
Chumi Lerman, a Jewish mother married to Rabbi Nesanal Lerman of Young Israel of Sunnyside, said, “I teach my four children to share the value of integrity and appreciate people in each and every encounter.” Lerman said the focus should be on the inherent value and positive qualities of every human being.
Mary McKnight, a Catholic married mother with eight children and a kindergarten teacher at PS 199, presented a quote from Great Britain’s Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: “God is greater than religion – he is only partially comprehended by any faith.”
Deniz Ozbudak, a Muslim married mother of four, said, “I teach my children to see people as other human beings.” All three women agreed with her assertion that “Sunnyside is very multi-cultural and diverse and we have to learn to live together.”
Ozbudak added that being Muslim creates a significant challenge because of society and the media’s focus on terrorism.
The mothers agreed that today’s media confuses what they teach their children. They limit the amount of exposure to television, the Internet and computer games.
A question and answer session, deftly moderated by Patricia Dorfman, followed each woman’s presentation and included at least one memorable quote from each mother.
Chumi Lerman on Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath): “We turn off all electronics, and that creates the best family-time…just like Little House on the Prairie.”
Mary McKnight was asked how she’d feel if one of her children married outside the Catholic faith, and responded, “Before tonight I’d say absolutely not, but now I see things differently.”
Deniz Ozbudak drew the evening’s best response from the standing room only crowd saying. “We’re going to solve the problems of the Middle East right here in Sunnyside – if you’d like, we’ll give you autographs.”