As the sun went down on Sunday, June 3, more than 100 people of all faiths gathered at the Unitarian Universalist meetinghouse on the Bridgehampton Turnpike. There, they heard words of blessing in Arabic and the sounding of a gong to announce that dinner was served — more specifically, the Ramadan Iftar potluck dinner.
Ready and waiting in the next room were tables groaning with a potluck feast — many dishes were regional specialties from countries like Morocco, Turkey and Pakistan and included lamb tagine, butter chicken, curried rice and, for dessert, homemade baklava.
This is the third Ramadan Iftar potluck dinner hosted by the UUs, and it’s an annual tradition first inspired by Sag Harbor’s Ken Dorph, a global financial consultant fluent in Arabic who works frequently in the Middle East and other Muslim-majority countries.
For those not familiar with the tradition, Mr. Dorph explained that Ramadan is the annual holy month for Muslims — a time for prayer, introspection and fasting. From sun up to sun down each day during Ramadan, Muslims are required to fast — no food, no drink, not even water. When the sun sets, Muslims break the fast with the Iftar meal. Because it’s based on the lunar cycle, Ramadan moves 10 days each year around the calendar. Mr. Dorph noted that fasting is much more difficult when Ramadan occurs in June, as it is now, when the sun is up for much more of the day.
As the sun was inching lower on the horizon, Mr. Dorph explained to the crowd how the Iftar dinner at the meetinghouse came to be. During Ramadan in 2016, Mr. Dorph happened to bump into Mohamad Nabil Nawwar, who, at the time, was the squash coach at Southampton Youth Services. When Mr. Dorph asked Mr. Nawwar, who is from Egypt, how Ramadan was going, he said he had been Skyping with his family in Alexandria each night, but was eating alone.
Mr. Dorph decided that was not an option and organized the first Iftar that year, with clergy members of various faith traditions taking part. Each year since, the feast has grown, and so have the number of friendships made between local Muslims and others in the community. Though Mr. Nawwar no longer lives on the East End — he was recently married and now makes his home in Queens — he and his wife returned for Iftar with the UUs.
“As-Salamu ‘alaikum,” said Mr. Dorph during the ceremony, explaining that the Arabic translated to “Peace upon you.” With just a little bit of coaching, he soon had those in attendance answering back, “Wa ‘alaikum as-Salam” … “And upon you, peace.”