SHARE Essex Invigorates New Jersey County
By Rutrell Yasin
SHARE Essex County is bringing renewed energy and structure to social assistance programs delivered to the Islamic community and residents of Essex County, New Jersey.
Through a lease agreement signed with the Islamic Center of East Orange, SHARE Essex is spearheading efforts to bring a host of Islamic social assistance organizations under one roof to provide a range of programs and resources to Muslims and the community at large.
A three-story building, owned by the Islamic Center, will serve as the base of operations for programs to assist the homeless and others in need of social assistance as well as address issues specific to women, said Abu Jamal Teague, Director of the Muslim Alliance in North America’s National SHARE Network.
The building was the Islamic Center’s previous masjid before the congregation moved into newer and significantly larger accommodations, Abu Jamal said.
On the first floor, which has a full kitchen, SHARE Essex will feed homeless families on at least a monthly basis, Abu Jamal added. On the second floor, the goal is to provide an office or a presence for every Islamic organization in the area that provides social assistance. It is here that community residents will come for assistance.
The third floor will be a Sisters’ Sanctuary, providing specific programs for women only. SHARE Essex board Vice Chairperson Najla Muhammad will lead a task force of sisters that will determine the programs and activities which will occur, Abu Jamal said.
Abu Jamal prefers the words “social assistance” to describe the services that will be rendered to the community rather than “social services”, because service implies “doing for” whereas assistance implies “doing with.”
The facility will offer social assistance to the Muslim community, “but it is not exclusively for Muslims,” Abu Jamal said. Crescent Social Assistance Agency, which was founded in 1996 and is the model upon which the SHARE Centers were based provided assistance to as many non-Muslims as Muslims. This pattern is intended to continue under the SHARE operations.
For instance, SHARE Essex will offer a literacy program for adults who are behaviorally challenged, and are housed a few doors from the SHARE office. Additionally, SHARE Essex will offer a parenting program for people in a nearby homeless shelter.
If the agency that houses these individuals offers the classes, the people in the shelter could resist because they might feel that they are being forced upon them, Abu Jamal said. However, if an outside organization such as SHARE Essex offers the classes, they would feel they have the right to accept or decline and, as a result, could be more inclined to take the classes, and more viscerally open to benefit from the intervention, he added.
As of this writing SHARE Essex and its partners were working to have the building insured before moving into the first two floors. Ceiling and floor repair work on the third floor needs to be completed before that area can be occupied, Abu Jamal said.
To raise funds for that repair work, SHARE Essex and other Islamic organizations in the area will hold a fundraising event on May 30th at a County College in Newark. The College Muslim Student Association is co-sponsoring the event. Preacher Moss will be the master of ceremonies for the event, which will feature speeches by local Imams. The them of the event will be: The Role of the Masjid in Social Service Delivery.
Abu Jamal said that the organizations thought it was important to highlight the local Muslim leadership’s commitment to efforts to raise the level of social assistance in Essex County based on the Quran and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) instead of bringing in national speakers. Each of the speakers leads a masjid that provides social assistance to their communities.
For more information on the fundraising event contact Abu Jamal Teague at firstname.lastname@example.org.