Local Turks Deliver

Allan Appel PhotoThirteen boxes containing 200 pounds of ground beef slaughtered according to halal Muslim ritual arrived at City Hall Wednesday morning.

City Hall wasn’t ordering out for lunch.

Rather, the delivery was to benefit the area’s needy and those affected by Superstorm Sandy.

The salami-shaped tubes of beef are a first-time gift from the area’s Turkish Cultural Center Connecticut to mark the Muslim holiday Eid Al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice. It derives from the Koranic binding of Ishmael on a sacrificial altar by his father Abraham.

In that foundational story, the Turkish Cultural Center’s Executive Director Mehmet Erdogdu said, “God sent a ram with [the Angel] Gabriel in place” of Abraham’s son.

Thus the sacrifice of meat.

In remarks following Mayor John DeStefano’s expression of the city’s gratitude, Erdogdu said area Turkish families mark the day by purchasing a slaughtered animal and donating it to the poor.

The occasion was long planned, but the storm and its impact give it special significance, said Erdogdu, whose group is headquartered in West Haven and has another center in Hartford.

He said the gift was an expression of Turkey’s heritage of tolerance and understanding and “a way of giving thanks to the community we live in and a way for the Turkish community to help our neighbors during the time of Sandy.”

Jennifer Thomas accepted the gift on behalf of the Connecticut Food Bank. It’s also the first time the Connecticut Food Bank has received a gift of halal food, she said.

And it’s sorely needed. “Protein-based product is usually at a premium. When we have a direct donation, it fosters a really good relationship,” she said.

That means that in the future and perhaps with the continuing involvement of Erdogdu, the food bank may be able to receive more donations from the producers of the halal beef, the Nema Food Company, a Turkish-owned business based in Pittsburgh.

Erdogdu said there are about 10,000 people of Turkish origin, most second or third generation, in Connecticut. He guessed that of those 5,000 are in West Haven and 3,000 in New Haven.

The snow and sleet did not prevent Thomas from taking the gift and immediately delivering it: four boxes to Christian Community Action, five to the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, and tomorrow four boxes to the Jewish Family Service.

She said the beneficiary soup kitchens were chosen not based on whether their clients are Muslim, but on need.

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