The Yildirim family brought a gift when they arrived at Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell’s home in Deerfield for Shabbat dinner on Friday.
It was a drawing by 7-year-old Meryem Yildirim depicting the moment at O’Hare International Airport that brought the two families together: two fathers — one Muslim and the other Jewish — with children perched on their shoulders as they protested President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration.
A photo of that moment by Tribune photographer Nuccio DiNuzzo went viral and became a symbol of hope and peace. Meryem’s drawing went up on the refrigerator at the Bendat-Appell family’s home.
“Even two normal families standing next to each other is becoming inspirational, that’s how crazy the world is,” said Fatih Yildirim, the Muslim father in the photo, as he sat in the living room of his new Jewish friends. “We don’t want crazy for our kids in the future. We need to come out from our bubbles or our comfort zones … and reach the others and communicate.”
In the photo, Bendat-Appell’s 9-year-old son Adin is wearing his kippah, or yarmulke, while holding a sign that reads “Hate has no home here.” Yildirim’s daughter Meryem is wearing her black hijab while holding a sign that says “Love.”
The families exchanged contact information and decided to share a Shabbat, or Sabbath, dinner in celebration of peace. When they arrived on Friday, the Yildirim family was greeted by a handmade “Welcome” sign, colored and surrounded with hearts made by Bendat-Appell’s 5-year old daughter.
Jordan Bendat-Appell said his family “didn’t go to that protest to try to make new friends. But, when I met Fatih, I recognized him as just a good person and felt this was a good opportunity to get connected if he was open to it.”
Bendat-Appell said he thinks the dinner is important because it’s “much harder to objectify” other people once you get to know them.
“I have felt for some time that it would be good for me to break out of my Jewish bubble,” said Bendat-Appell, who with his wife, Yael, has three children.
“I feel this is something the world needs,” Yael Bendat-Appell said.
Both families welcomed media into the home before dinner. Reporters watched as they got to know each other but left before the dinner was served.
Fatih Yildirim sat in the living room with Adin, talking about soccer and hockey. Yildirim said he did not know how to skate and Adin told him, “All you have to do is get balanced and don’t look down.”
After a few moments of small talk, Fatih Yildirim asked Adin to explain a Shabbat dinner.
The boy told him about the rituals: when they break bread, when it’s time to be quiet, when they pray. Yildirim put his fingers to his own lips and asked, “Can you give me some signals, like ‘don’t talk’?”
Adin was curious, too, about Yildirim’s family. He asked about the Muslim family’s prayer rituals and was told they pray “a lot.”
Do the children pray?
Yes, Fatih Yildirim explained. But not the youngest.
“He’s a baby,” Yildirim said. “He doesn’t need to pray.”
The Bendat-Appells cleared out some space in the basement for the Yildirim family to pray before and after dinner. Before they got started, Adin Bendat-Appell asked if he could watch. “You can watch us,” said Fatih Yildirim, a store manager from Schaumburg.
As they prayed, Adin sat on the stairs in respectful silence.
Both families had their own reasons for showing up at O’Hare on Jan. 30. Jordan Bendat-Appell wanted to show his son how to stand up for what he believes in.
Yildirim came to the airport with cookies for the lawyers who were offering pro bono services to immigrants who’d been detained.
Yildirim held a sign reading: “Empathy.” Bendat-Appell held a sign declaring: “We’ve seen this before. Never again. Jews against the ban.”
The two men were engrossed in a conversation about where to find a good kosher steakhouse and other pleasantries when they were photographed together.
Although the photograph has drawn positive attention in the United States, it’s caused some problems for Yildirim, who has been criticized in Turkish media. On Friday, Yildirim said his family in Turkey supports the government there and wanted to make clear neither the protest nor subsequent events here had anything to do with events in his former country.
His wife, Amy, said she understood why the photograph had the impact it did inside the United States.
“The bigger point behind this is people standing up … against the wrong that’s going on in this country,” Amy Yildirim said.
Fatih Yildirim said something good happened at the protest and they had to follow up to help “make it permanent.”
“I’m hoping they’ll come to our house too,” Yildirim said.
First posted on chicagotribune