“Let’s Lean on Each Other to Stand Against Hate”
by Iman Boukadoum, ICNY’s Director of Community Partnerships
“I believe that the arsenal of a lasting faith in a better future is love between human beings; a love that is capable of outlasting anxieties and disillusionments, desperation and depression.”
- Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer (1930-1993)
Human Rights Activist, and Spiritual Leader
of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun
I don’t know about you, but since November’s election it’s been hard for me to feel the love described so movingly here by Rabbi Marshall Meyer – a love that gives us “lasting faith in a better future,” despite inevitable “anxieties and disillusionments, desperation and depression.” New York’s religious and civic leaders need more opportunities to come together across faith lines and reaffirm the transformative power of love. That’s why the Interfaith Center of New York is hosting a free, full-day conference on April 5th, to explore the theme of Hospitality in a Time of Hate: Religious Leadership for an Inclusive City under the Trump Administration. We’ll address a lot of tough issues together at the conference, but in the end I think it’s all about love.
I can feel the need for this conversation every day in my work at The Interfaith Center. As ICNY’s Director of Community Partnerships, I spend a lot of time talking with faith leaders from all across New York City. I usually begin those conversations by simply asking, “What’s on your mind?” Seldom are the responses about the faith leaders themselves. Instead, the answers are usually about the challenges facing the diverse communities they lead and serve, from socioeconomic barriers, to family and legal issues, and countless other small and large concerns. In the past, I’ve noted a wide range of concerns from different congregational and community leaders, depending on the specific communities they serve.
In recent months, however, faith leaders’ responses to my opening question are becoming resoundingly and alarmingly similar. I am hearing an unprecedented distress from diverse New Yorkers – across faith, class, and borough lines, including Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and many others, whether immigrant or native-born – they are all disturbed by the ever-festering hatred and violence ripping at the moral fabric of our country. Communities of faith are clearly sensing an escalation in the frequency and intensity of intolerance, hate crimes, hate speech and general antagonism since the election of President Donald J. Trump. Moreover, many of the diverse faith leaders I speak with express little optimism that things are going to improve any time soon.
In response, faith leaders across the city have intensified efforts to help their own and other communities respond to difficult challenges in these atypical times. And there’s a growing desire to take even more action. New York’s religious communities are stepping up. Faith leaders are, leading demonstrations, bringing legal counsellors to support communities against hate speech and hate crimes, housing and escorting undocumented immigrants suffering under draconian new policies – turning distress into positive action, in many ways.
Yet, one thing that often seems to be missing – and sometimes seems most urgently needed – is a way for faith leaders themselves to effectively communicate with each other; to share best practices, strategies, and resources; to share the love that is “capable of outlasting anxieties and disillusionments, desperation and depression.”
The Interfaith Center of New York will help address this clear need for better communication on Wednesday, April 5th, at a free, full-day conference allowing religious and civic leaders to connect across faith lines, and discuss strategies that can take us forward together. This gathering will be our 33rd Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Retreat for Social Justice, and under the theme of Hospitality in a Time of Hate the conference will address some of the challenges I have heard about from faith leaders across the city. Our conversations will explore how diverse New Yorkers can respond to the Trump administration’s xenophobic rhetoric and policy agenda. We will look for new opportunities for dialogue, collaboration, and community organizing, as faith leaders mobilize around the rising tides of racism, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism.
I think it will be an empowering day of learning, sharing, and (yes!) love for New York’s diverse religious and civic leaders. I hope you can join us on Wednesday, April 5th, as we reaffirm our “lasting faith in a better future.”