Friday, May 22, 2009

A Behind-the-Scenes Look At The Riverdale Terror Plot

Back on December 7, 2008 as reported in: Open Arms at an Unexpected Haven

BACK home in the Indonesian city of Semarang, Dinar Puspita, a slight and cheerful 17-year-old, says her afternoon prayers with friends at the mosque in her school. In Riverdale in the Bronx, Dinar is now a high school exchange student in an increasingly Orthodox neighborhood where synagogues are prevalent.

Among them is the Riverdale Jewish Center, which sits conveniently across the street from Dinar’s public school on Independence Avenue at West 237th Street. Because Dinar cannot pray in the school, the Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy, her host Naomi Erickson e-mailed the synagogue’s rabbi to see if the girl could pray there instead.

“I was very pleasantly surprised at how gracious the rabbi was,” said Ms. Erickson, a retired accountant.

Dinar echoed Ms. Erickson’s feelings.

“I didn’t think that they will let me pray in here,” she said the other day, seated on a green cushioned bench in the synagogue after finishing her prayers. “I mean, it’s not my religion.”

As it turned out, the rabbi, Jonathan Rosenblatt, was happy to offer Dinar a few places within the large building in which to pray on days when after-school activities preclude her from going home to pray.

The sanctuary was one option, but sometimes it is locked, and other times it is crowded. So Dinar has taken a liking to a long, quiet hallway lined with large windows and plaques memorializing synagogue members and their loved ones.

On Wednesday, Dinar prepared for prayer by dropping her pink backpack on a bench and sitting down to untie her sneakers. She washed up in a gray-tiled restroom and then stepped into a long ivory robe that hid her black hair and framed her heart-shaped face. For about 10 minutes, she closed her eyes, mouthed prayers silently in Arabic and repeated a sequence of standing, bowing and kneeling.

Dinar began going to the synagogue last month, taking along a compass the first day to figure out which way to place her prayer rug...

The reaction from the synagogue’s congregation to Dinar has been very supportive, Rabbi Rosenblatt said...“I never understood what the big deal was,” he said. “Somebody’s child from halfway around the world needs a place to worship.”

Still, Rabbi Rosenblatt addressed the issue at a service, telling his congregation that he was not only comfortable but proud that someone felt a holiness in this place. “It’s the first time I remember applause after a sermon,” he said.

Kippah tip: VisciousBabushka via AtlasShrugs)

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