Powers Street Mosque

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Powers Street Mosque
Religion
AffiliationIslam
Location
Location104 Powers Street New York City, New York, United States
Powers Street Mosque is located in New York City
Powers Street Mosque
Shown within New York City
Geographic coordinates 40°42′43″N 73°56′48″W / 40.71194°N 73.94667°W / 40.71194; -73.94667
Latitude and Longitude:

40°42′43″N 73°56′48″W / 40.71194°N 73.94667°W / 40.71194; -73.94667

The Powers Street Mosque in Brooklyn, New York City is one of the oldest mosques in the United States. It was founded by a small group of Lipka Tatars, originating from the Białystok region of Poland. This was the first Muslim organization in New York state. [1] [2]

History

Beginnings

Small-scale Muslim immigration to the United States began in 1840, with the arrival of Yemenis and Turks, [3] and lasted until World War I. Most of the immigrants, from Arab areas of the Ottoman Empire, came with the purpose of making money and returning to their homeland. Some of these immigrants settled in the United States permanently. Nonetheless, the population of Muslims in the United States was small in the first half of the 20th century, and many of these first immigrants assimilated and did not leave create any lasting Muslim religious institutions.

Lipka Tatars have been a fixture of Poland's ethnic landscape since the 14th century, with many gaining the privileges of nobility in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Lipka Tatars settlements were located in northeast Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, south-east Latvia and Ukraine, with about 10,000 to 15,000 Lipka Tatars still living in Poland, Belarus, and Lithuania. Lipka Tatars in these communities followed their Polish neighbors in immigrating to the United States, and subsequently settled close to the Polish enclave of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. This community formally organized themselves as the American Mohammedan Society in 1907.

104 Powers Street

When the American Mohammedan Society bought 104 Powers Street in 1931 along with two adjacent lots, the organization became the first corporate body to purchase land in New York City with the express purpose of practicing Islam. [4] An article in a 1935 issue of The Muslim World Journal describes 104 Powers Street as a three-story wooden building that is the “only real mosque which exists today in America." [4] Time Magazine wrote about the mosque in a feature on Ramadan in its November 15th issue in 1937:

"Today the clean, shiny mosque looks like a Polish church, decorated in pink, yellow and blue, the Moslem star & crescent festooned with painted roses and daisies. This is natural since its swart, thick-accented Imam, Sam Rafilowich, son of an Imam in a Polish village, is a Polish Tartar, who arrived in the U. S. 29 years ago. Most of his habitual worshippers are also Tartars, descendants of Tamerlane's hordes who entered Russia 600 years ago." [5]

The American Mohammedan Society is the fifth owner of the property, which has served as a church, a District Assembly Clubhouse for the Democratic Party, as well as a greenhouse. [4] The structure was originally constructed as the Powers Street Methodist Episcopal Church, and the interior still resembles a Christian worship space today, with three short steps leading up to an altar on the first floor that the Tatars converted into a minbar. Congregants stand diagonally to pray and a makeshift partition separates the women’s prayer area from the men’s section; unlike conventional mosques that face the Kaaba in Mecca, 104 Powers Street is not a purpose-built mosque. [4]

Present

The Lipka Tatar community in Brooklyn has shrunk dramatically since then. These days, the mosque usually only opens up for weddings and funerals, presided over by a part-time Imam of Bulgarian descent who lives in Long Island. [4]

References

  1. ^ "Religion: Ramadan". Time. 1937-11-15. Retrieved 2020-06-18.
  2. ^ "America's Oldest Surviving Mosque Is in Williamsburg". Bedford + Bowery. 2018-12-26. Retrieved 2020-07-29.
  3. ^ Koszegi, Michael; Melton, J. Gordon (1992). Islam in North America: A Sourcebook. New York: Garland Publishing Inc. pp. 26–27.
  4. ^ a b c d e Siddiqui, Zuha. "America's Oldest Surviving Mosque Is in Williamsburg". Bedford and Bowery. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  5. ^ "Religion: Ramadan". Time. 1937-11-15. Retrieved 2020-06-18.

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