PATERSON, NJ- Second Ward Councilman Shahin Khalique, joined by Mayor Andre Sayegh, two of his colleagues on the Paterson City Council, Paterson Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale, and Board of Education Commissioner Joel Ramirez, welcomed more than 800 guests to his annual Community Iftar at JFK High School on Saturday.

Translated as “break fast”, an iftar is the evening meal those of the Muslim faith partake in following a day of fasting during the month in which Ramadan is observed.

“Ramadan is one of the most sacred events amongst Islamic communities. People gathering to break their fast together is a symbol of the deep connection we have as a people,” Khalique shared previously adding that the event is one that allows the community to “come together and celebrate what makes us a family!”

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It’s been a recently momentous year for the Muslim community in Paterson, Khalique said, with the recent introduction of Halal meals in two of Paterson’s public schools, a program spearheaded by Ramirez which is expected to be expanded in September so that more city children can observe their religious dietary needs during the school day.

Sixth Ward Councilman Al Abdelaziz echoed the theme of unity, highlighting again that with both he and Khalique serving on the city’s legislative body Paterson’s Muslim population is well represented. That’s not enough, however, Abdelaziz articulated. In order to be impactful residents in both of their wards, as well as across the city, must stick together.

“If we can stay together we can get things done,” Abdelaziz concluded. “Together we can move policies that matter to Paterson.”

The ongoing renovations of Buckley Park, once ridiculed for the botched recreation center that he often derided as a “trailer park” is one example of progress, First Ward Councilman Michael Jackson offered, and an indication that by standing together and making difficult decisions Paterson can change for the better.

While Sayegh’s schedule prevented him from staying for the meal he was one of the first to arrive, greeting many of the guests by name, and even more with hearty hugs and handshakes. Given a chance to speak he spent his time commending the mostly Bengali attendees for their outsized contributions to Paterson.

In addition to Khalique representing the growing community on the city council, Sayegh told the crowd proudly that since his election he has made appointments, including of Ferdous Hussain as deputy mayor; local business owner Azi Alam to a statewide committee on Urban Enterprise Zones (UEZ); and, most recently, Imran Hsn as a commissioner on the newly formed Friends of Paterson Parks, giving the growing community an even greater voice in how the city runs.

“This is One Paterson,” Sayegh said. “Together we are writing a new chapter for our city.”

Ramadan ends on Tuesday, June 4.