The Jersey Journal, March 25, 2003
By Rita Villadiego
|HOBOKEN – On the day bombs began falling on Baghdad last week, a mix of young and old gathered at the Symposia Bookstore on Willow Avenue to share thoughts on war, life and other issues.
In jarring contrast to the war worries in many hearts, people gathered at the neighborhood bookstore to eat together and share their hopes and fears in a bright forum surrounded by books, computers and cozy pillows.
Miles Jackson, 76, a veteran of the Army in World War II, wished for a quick victory for the U.S. troops in Iraq, but also said he had wanted a stronger coalition of nations arrayed against Iraq. He quoted one of the guiding principles of famous Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu: “The art of war is to win it without fighting.”
Marie Slato, 50, attended the forum to speak about her worries about her nephew, who is stationed in the Persian Gulf, and about the fears of her nephew’s two children, waiting for his return.
Peter Martin, 27, was elated when scores of Iraqi soldiers had surrendered. He said if he were in their position, he would do the same.
The mission of the forum is to bring people together to promote a deeper sense of community in Hoboken, said John Bredin, the 40-year-old creator and facilitator of the twice-weekly exchange, founded after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
A freewheeling discussion is held every Wednesday while Thursdays have a set topic, ranging from education to romance to, this week, people’s cravings for sweets.
“There’s a feeling of sharing here,” said Bredin. “In these times of international crisis, the salon brings people together to make friends and to articulate feelings. People are coming together here to show who they are and what they believe in.”
Cornel Rusu, general manager of Symposia, founded the bookstore to follow a dream.
He says he wants members of the community to be fulfilled and developed by interacting with each other. He wants people to help each other and make a difference in the community.
“Whatever dreams people have, it has to be a reality. We want to help empower them,” Rusu said.
In addition to the weekly forums, the bookstore also offers free job-seeking seminars, poetry readings, movies, entertainment, discussion and lectures. There’s also a monthly “Ethnic Night,” giving people a chance to showcase their culture with free food, entertainment and films.
The bookstore has raised funds for shelter homes and to help the poor with support from area churches, businesses and residents, Rusu said.
For more information and a schedule of events, see the bookstore’s Web site at www.symposia.us