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Three Sunnyside Mothers Discuss Raising Children of Faith in the US Melting Pot

Mary McKnight, Chumi Lerman and Deniz Ozbudak

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.”

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hey 86mets i am also a hardcore mets fan hope we get somewhere this year but anyway as for your remarks i think you must broaden yourself to see all of the good things being done


as usual of course there are going to be negative people making negative remarks but look at it this way if it were not for the negative people we would have anything to do so keep up the good work TCC and let us all learn to live together in peace and love each other


I read this article feeling very warm and proud about living in Sunnyside….then I read some of these comments.


Here’ the deal: you raise your kids with your religious values and I’ll do the same with mine. As long as we leave each other alone, there should be no problem. Simple. No panel discussion needed.


Let’s hear it for the druids – go out and hug a tree! Seriously, I think this was a great panel discussion and should be done more often. I would also like to hear from families which have had intermarriage.



I’ve been lectured to about “inclusion” and “diversity” and “multiculturalism” by liberals so much over the years, you can be damn sure I will call them out when they don’t practice it themselves.

Just holding the left wing to their own standards.


What do you people expect…Those are the three main religious groups in New York…

I guess next time we should include Druids, Taoists, Mormons, Scientologists, Falun Gong preachers, Shintoists, etc, etc..

Also, forget about holding the event at the Turkish Cultural Center. Too small. We have to think big.

We should all build a massive tent under the 46th Street Arch… and all smile and wave at each other like mentally retarded people …

Or even better still, bring rotten tomatoes to throw at the guy who doesn’t believe in “MY” god.

43rd & 43rd

Are you joking, no Buddhists or Hindus in Sunnyside? I understand a panel can’t be infinitely large, but there are certainly plenty of both in the area.

I would also add, what about Protestants? Catholics are a minority and certainly don’t represent all Christians.


Because Buddhist, animists,Hindus etc don’t reside in sunnyside.
What is a melting pot?
What is in a melting pot?


Why were there no buddhist or hindu moms included?

I thought inclusion was supposed to be such a good thing.


What a beautiful folk revival moment that was. Parents, no matter how hard they try …end up corrupting their kids to form an opinion based on race, class, and religion.
There is no such thing as freedom of religion when kids are involved.


Interesting discussion and very timely and important. Nobody has a monopoly on the truth.


the problem in the middle east is they still believe throwing rocks at people and hanging them in town squares is a normal thing to do.

New Whirled Order

Just practice your own religion and let others practice theirs. It’s not rocket science. And the problems in the middle east are more about oil and the economy than anything else right now.

Oppressed Masses

Thank you to the Turkish Cultural Center for providing the opportunity to have this important community discussion.


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