JOPLIN, Mo. —
Shanjida Chowdhury on Friday was proud of her work.
The 18-year-old freshman at New York University had spent the week working to restore a house at 2839 E. 18th St. destroyed in the May 22, 2011, tornado. She pointed to the tile on the floor at the entrance of the house.
“I tiled this,” she said. “I did this whole section.”
She said the Muslim and Jewish volunteers from NYU accomplished a lot since starting work on the Rebuild Joplin project on Monday. Chowdhury is Muslim.
“This floor wasn’t there” on Monday, she said. “We painted and tiled and grouted and cleaned.”
She is a volunteer with Bridges: Muslim-Jewish Interfaith Dialogue at New York University.
“It’s a bunch of us Muslim and Jewish kids working together to do good,” Chowdhury said.
She said she has been inspired by the hope and spirit she has seen in the people in Joplin.
“I’m really sore, but it’s a good kind of pain,” she said.
Also participating in the volunteer project were the Jewish Disaster Response Corps and ICNA Relief, part of the Islamic Circle of North America. They also were busy rebuilding houses at 1901 S. Illinois Ave. and in Duenweg at 1320 S. Prigmore Ave.
David O’Neill and Tim Linkeman were site supervisors for Rebuild Joplin at the Illinois Avenue house. They said the volunteers have prepared the house for the “punch list,” the final details of getting the house ready for its owners.
“It’s been an education, meeting people from different parts of the country, with different backgrounds, and seeing them come together with a common objective is an inspiration,” O’Neill said.
Linkeman said they have had good conversations with the volunteers about their backgrounds and cultures.
Zach Schwarzbaum, 19, a Jewish NYU student, said the tornado seems to have strengthened the faith of everyone in Joplin he had met who had experienced the tornado, which he said surprised him. He said he was surprised to see how quickly Joplin was rebuilding. He was at the house on 18th Street.
“This is a nice opportunity to put our differences aside,” he said. “Judaism and Islam have a lot of similarities I didn’t know about before this trip.”
Mia Applebaum, co-leader of the trip for Bridges, is a 20-year-old Jewish student at NYU. She said the project has been a powerful experience.
“I view the experience as a privilege, something very rewarding, “ she said.
“Amazing,” is how Aimee Mosseri described her time in Joplin. Mosseri, a Jew, is a 20-year-old junior at NYU. She was working at the Illinois Avenue house. She said she has really enjoyed having time to talk with the Muslim volunteers on the trip.
“We see each other not as something other,” she said. “We really get to interact in a new environment.”
She said she was looking forward to joining with fellow volunteers and local Muslims for Friday prayers, and with local Jews at sundown for Shabbat service at the United Hebrew Congregation synagogue.
Sam Cohen, 22, a Jewish student at NYU, examined a copy of the Quran with Muslim students before the prayer service at the temporary prayer hall at Pavilions West Shopping Center. Local Muslims have been meeting there for Friday prayers since their mosque was destroyed Aug. 6 in a suspicious fire.
After the service, he said it’s been powerful to work alongside Muslim students all week.
“It’s been great to see the role faith has played in the community” responding to the tornado, he said.
Mosseri said the Muslim prayer service lived up to her expectations.
“It was very interesting,” she said. “It was pretty cool. It was a new experience for me to put on a hijab.”
Mosseri and Cohen said they recognized similarities in the Muslim and Jewish worship service.
Abdur Rehman Badat, with ICNA Relief, said the project has been eye-opening for him.
“I wish other people could see it,” he said. “The stereotypes and stigma with other religions could be erased. Working together creates a bond.”
Elie Lowenfeld, founder of the JDRC, said Joplin is different from other disaster locations he has visited in that everyone felt the disaster personally.
“I have found it very personally inspiring the way people have rallied and continued to rally, while also looking forward,” He said.
Lowenfeld said he thought that was demonstrated in Cunningham Park, which includes a memorial to those who died in the tornado and a monument thanking the volunteers who have helped with recovery.
Elie Lowenfeld, founder of the Jewish Disaster Response Corps, said more volunteers from New York will return to Joplin on March 3.
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Shanjida Chowdhury on Friday was proud of her work.
- Local News
Nixon proposes $5,000 hike for Bright Flight scholarship
The first time AshLeigh Thomlinson took the ACT as a Neosho High School student, she received a score of 30. It’s students such as Thomlinson that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon hopes to keep in the state with a new financial aid incentive that would give students who receive Bright Flight scholarships the option for an extra $5,000 annually if they agree to work full time in Missouri immediately after school.
Jo Ellis: Signing up for drug plan requires the patience of Job
Payback is ... well ... you know what it is. A few days ago, my husband, with an innocent expression on his face, handed me a letter with the admonition that I needed to take care of it, since the company in question would deal with no one except the applicant except in special circumstances.
Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Columnist joins list of calendar women
Last Thursday, I was attending the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual recognition of the coming year’s “Women of Distinction” recipients. This time, though, I wasn’t carrying a notepad or camera, which felt odd. I was among the 12.
Susan Redden: Senator laments attitudes leading to gridlock
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., lamented the “all-or-nothing” attitude among many Washington lawmakers in remarks before a Joplin audience last week. He said that sort of stance has left the government in “lockdown” for five years, and he blamed the White House and both political parties for the problem.
Classic toy collection on display in Carl Junction
As Jay McBee pulled box after box of toys from his truck Saturday, he wasn’t just unloading pieces to display at the Carl Junction Community Center. From stacks of G.I. Joe action figures to board games not made since the 1960s, these boxes are essentially McBee’s childhood on display.
MSSU music group to buy steel drums for new ensemble
Percussion students at Missouri Southern State University plan to organize a community-based steel drum ensemble that will perform concerts in Joplin. The ensemble is expected to launch in March, when Missouri Southern will put on its first World Music Festival.
Southeast Kansas could lose shelter, transportation funding for families in poverty
Southeast Kansas residents who met recently in Pittsburg to tackle poverty challenges left with more questions than answers. Key among them is what to do about an emergency shelter for homeless families, built in 2008, that likely will close in March. Transportation services also could be in jeopardy.
Plan to close longtime day care leaves Neosho parents scrambling
Parents of the 100 children enrolled at Neosho’s Abundant Life Early Learning Center are scrambling to find alternative child care. The day care, operated for the past 30 years by Abundant Life Church, is closing Jan. 10. About 15 employees also are seeking new jobs.
Legislators want budget details before signing off on Bright Flight boost
Joplin-area lawmakers want the bigger budget picture before they agree to support Gov. Jay Nixon’s plan to expand Missouri’s Bright Flight scholarship program.
East Newton student scores perfect 36 on ACT
When George Bennion took the ACT in October, he was shooting for a score of 35 — one point higher than his older brother had scored on his test. But when the results came in, he was surprised to see that not only had he outdone his brother, he had also scored a perfect 36.
- More Local News Headlines
- Nixon proposes $5,000 hike for Bright Flight scholarship