Recognizing the great divide that exists in the nation today, including fear of those who do not look like us, the Union County Interfaith Coordinating Council recently held a Know Your Neighbor event to foster greater familiarity of and friendship with others within the community. The event was held at the Rahway Family Success Center at JFK Community Center in Rahway.

The Know Your Neighbor evening revolved around the theme of neighbors reaching out to others in their neighborhoods and getting to know one another over cups of tea or coffee. Attendees shared positive experiences of interactions with their neighbors, some of which helped overcome fears fueled by stereotypes.

Eman El-Badawi spoke of her journey from India to Egypt and finally to New Jersey and her adoption of America as her home. She is the daughter of an Indian father and Egyptian mother who met in Malaysia and sent her to the United States for her education. While here she met her husband and today they own a sheep farm.

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"It hasn't always been easy but I've taken people on my journey," she said. "And that's why I'm here today, to make new friends. There is nothing like meeting new friends over tea."

The Know Your Neighbor event is a grass roots movement started by the Islamic Networks Group in 2015 with support of the Obama administration.

"We are a country filled with people of different ethnic backgrounds and we need to get to know each other to bring peace to the community," said Seham Adbala, director of the NJ Islamic Networks group. "You're always afraid of what you don't know. When you get to know one another those fears fall away."

Added Sid Blanchard, executive director of the nonprofit Community Access Unlimited (CAU), "This evening is about getting to know your neighbor and building communities. And it's even more important to respect your neighbor and be respected back by them."

The Union County Interfaith Coordinating Council comprises more than 40 Union County interfaith congregations and community-based nonprofits and was founded by CAU. Community Access Unlimited is a statewide Union County-based nonprofit providing support programs and services to adults with disabilities as well as at-risk youth to enable them to live independently in the community, providing supports in areas including housing, vocational skills and life-skills training, education, advocacy and recreation.

About Community Access Unlimited

Community Access Unlimited (CAU), celebrating its 39th year in 2018, supports people with special needs in achieving real lives in the community. CAU provides support and gives voice to adults and youth who traditionally have little support and no voice in society. CAU helps people with housing, life skills, employment, money management, socialization and civic activities. CAU also supports opportunities for advocacy through training in assertiveness, decision-making and civil right. CAU currently serves more than 6,000 individuals and families, with the number served growing each year. For more information about CAU and its services, contact us by phone at 908.354.3040, online at www.caunj.org or by mail at 80 West Grand Street, Elizabeth, NJ 07202.