Viral Photo Sparks Bond Between Jewish, Muslim Families

Photos by Suzanne Tennant
Text by Mimi Sager Yoskowitz 

“The photo was really beautiful and powerful because there was this amazing parallel between the two families,” said Yael Bendat-Appell.

She was talking about a photograph that depicted her husband, Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell, and their 9-year-old son along with Fatih Yildirim and his 7-year-old daughter. Both fathers talked while their children were perched atop their shoulders, smiling and holding signs that included, “Hate Has No Home Here.” Meryem, the little girl, wore a scarf; Adin sported a yarmulke.

The photo of the Jewish and Muslim families, taken during a protest of President Trump’s first travel ban inside O’Hare International Airport by Chicago Tribune photographer Nuccio DiNuzzo, went viral. Those parallels Yael discussed sowed the seeds of a friendship between the Bendat-Appells and Yildirims. Since February, they have gathered three times for meals at each other’s homes.

During one of these recent dinners, the children, ranging in ages from 18 months to 15 years old, played together while the adults spoke in the living room, finishing each other’s sentences and laughing easily with one another.  

“We’re people who are busy with families and work and life. [Yet] this is really important to us, and so we’re making it happen,” said Rabbi Bendat-Appell about the families finding time to bond and solidify their friendship. “But it’s not an extraordinary thing. Anybody can do it.”

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The Bendat-Appell family from left: Jordan, Orli, Adin, Yael and Shaiya. The Yildirim family from left center: Amy, Ihsan, Fatih, Meryem, Yasemin and Destiny.
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The fathers were discussing kosher steak houses when a Chicago Tribune photographer snapped a photo of them that went viral this winter. In an effort to expand upon their families’ growing friendship, the Bendat-Appells and Yildirims recently gathered with six other couples from their own communities to begin widening the interfaith circle.
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“Our values as human beings feel very similar, so it’s exciting to share that,” said Yael Bendat-Appell, serving dinner to the children.
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“The kids need to reach out. They need to get outside of [their] bubble,” said Amy Yildirim. “Kids have this purity, they’re not contaminated yet.”
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The kids gelled quickly. “We end up sitting together ourselves, and the kids are off doing their own thing,” said Yael Bendat-Appell.
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Fatih Yildirim said seeing the Bendat-Appells and other non-Muslims at the protest was “touching.” Here he plays with his 22-month-old son Ihsan and 18-month-old Shaiya.
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“I think that God brought us together for a reason. It’s a good match, and it’s going to keep continuing,” Fatih Yildirim said. “This is just the beginning.”

 

kate-barsotti-pen-bw257Suzanne Tennant is a freelance editorial, commercial and family photographer based in the Chicago area. She was a staff photographer with Sun-Times Media Company from 2006 to 2011. During that  time she won awards in the Illinois Press Photographers Association “Best of Photojournalism.” She has also been a freelance photographer in the Seattle area.

kate-barsotti-pen-bw257Mimi Sager Yoskowitz is a Chicago-area freelance writer, mother of four and former CNN producer. Her work has been featured in Chicago’s JUF News and on various sites including “Kveller,” “Brain, Child” and in the Contributor Network of “The Forward.” Her essay about motherhood was featured in the anthology “So Glad They Told Me.” Connect with her at mimisager.com.

Copyright © 500 Pens. May 2017.