The 33rd Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Retreat for Social Justice

Hospitality in a Time of Hate:

Religious Leadership for an Inclusive City under the Trump Administration

Registration is Now Closed

On April 5th, the Interfaith Center of New York will hold a full-day conference for the city’s religious and civic leaders, exploring the emerging challenges for religious leadership under the presidency of Donald Trump. How, we will ask, can diverse New Yorkers best respond to the Trump administration’s xenophobic rhetoric and policy agenda? What new opportunities for dialogue, collaboration, and community organizing might emerge, as faith leaders mobilize around the rising tides of racism, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism? How can we advance an inclusive vision for the future of the city and country we love, in what may be a period of sustained attacks on our core values and communities?

As in our past Marshall Meyer Retreats, the Hospitality in a Time of Hate conference will include a keynote address, panel discussions, small group dialogues, interfaith prayer, and networking opportunities.  Please see below for information about panel topics and speakers.  Through these conversations, ICNY will help New York’s religious and civic leaders respond to the rapidly changing, and increasingly troubling, landscape of American political life.

The conference will meet from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on Wednesday, April 5th, at the Interchurch Center, 475 Riverside Drive, in Manhattan (enter on Riverside Drive or Claremont Avenue, between 119th and 120th Streets).  Click here to find it on Google Maps if you need directions by car or subway.

Registration is free for all participants, including meals and materials, thanks in part to a generous grant from the Fellowship in Prayer.  We hope you can join us and your diverse colleagues on April 5th.

If you have questions, please contact Iman Boukadoum Esq., ICNY’s Director of Community Partnerships, at 212-870-3515, or

We are pleased to announce expert speakers, panelists and faith leaders that will be leading key discussions!

Keynote Speaker

This year’s distinguished keynote speaker will be Donna Lieberman, Esq., who has been the Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) since 2001. Under Ms. Lieberman’s leadership, NYCLU has been widely recognized as one of New York state’s, and indeed, the nation’s, leading voices for freedom, justice, and equality for all. Their advocating for those whose rights and liberties have been denied, has made NYCLU a powerful force on the American rights landscape. During her tenure, Ms. Lieberman has led NYCLU to numerous victories in diverse areas including: religious freedom, criminal justice reform, marriage equality and in other areas.

Faith Community Reactions to the Keynote Address

The keynote address will have two first respondents from different faith communities. After the responses, a brief panel discussion between the two respondents and Ms. Lieberman will occur. This brief interfaith panel dialogue will explore how civil rights and diverse faith-based collaboration can better occur.

Respondent #1:

Dr. Debbie Almontaser, is the President of the Muslim Community Network and will be the first respondent to the plenary address. A leading, nationwide voice on Muslim-related matters, Dr. Almontaser is a 25-year veteran teacher in the NYC Public School System. She currently sits on Public Advocate, Tish James’, interfaith Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh Task Force to Combat Hate and has received numerous awards for her interfaith public service work.

Respondent #2:

The second respondent will be Rev. Dr. Peter G. Heltzel. He is the Director of The Micah Institute and is also Associate Professor of Theology at the New York Theological Seminary. An ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), he currently serves as Assistant Pastor of Evangelism at The Park Avenue Christian Church. An activist and theologian, Dr. Heltzel serves on his church’s Northeastern Region, Anti-Racism and Pro-Reconciliation sub-committee. 

Panel #1

Resistance, Advocacy &

Sanctuary Spaces for Immigrants & Refugees

Dr. Diane Steinman is the co-founder and director of the New York State Interfaith Network for Immigration Reform. It is a network of diverse faith community leaders and organizations formed in 2009 to advocate adoption of just and humane immigration and refugee policies. Dr. Steinman is a leading interfaith immigration advocate and will discuss interfaith immigration advocacy and policy collaboration which she has championed for over three decades.

The Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper is the Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church since 2005.  One of the first women trained by Saul Alinsky, Schaper has focused on issues of political and economic development and interfaith support for social change. At Judson she has pioneered work with the New York City New Sanctuary Movement to protect immigrants and refugees being detained or deported unjustly. 

Ravi Ragbir is a nationally recognized leader in the immigrants’ rights movement. In 2010, Mr. Ragbir became a full-time organizer for the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, one of the largest coalitions in the city focused on immigrants’ rights, with over 20 faith-based and supporting organizations, representing over 3,000 New Yorkers. Through his own struggle to remain in the U.S., Mr. Ragbir became active in supporting other immigrants and refugees facing similar challenges. He faces deportation on April 11, 2017.

Minister Juan Carlos Ruiz is a Lutheran Minister with the Metropolitan New York Synod. He is also a nationally known community activist, leading immigration reform efforts. Minister Ruiz is one of the co-founders of the New Sanctuary Movement, which supports immigrants across the country who have taken refuge in churches to avoid deportation. 

Panel #2

Empowering Communities against

Hate Speech & Hate Crimes 

Sapreet Kaur has been the Executive Director since September 2009, of the Sikh Coalition, the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the nation.  During her time at the Sikh Coalition, Ms. Kaur has pursued a series of strategic initiatives, including strengthening hate crimes training, the Sikh Coalition’s engagement in California, deepening community relationships through new cutting edge development programs, and scaling the media and communications capacity to meet the needs of the organization’s other advocacy areas. 

David J. Kennedy, Esq., Chief of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, Southern District of New York Office, is charged with overseeing the enforcement of federal civil rights statutes. Civil Division Assistant US Attorneys under his leadership have worked closely with other attorneys in the Criminal Division to prosecute criminal civil rights cases, such as police and corrections officer brutality cases, hate crime cases, and violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. Mr. Kennedy is also Adjunct Professor of Clinical Law at the New York University School of Law

Rishi Singh is the director of youth organizing at Desis Rising Up and Moving better known as DRUM. As an undocumented immigrant, Rishi is directly touched by immigration policies the U.S. and his families are also deportees from Canada. He was the NYC Peoples Global Action on Migration Development & Human Rights Coordinator in 2013 and is a recent DACA recipient. He has been a leader of DRUM’s immigrant rights work as an undocumented youth since 2003 and is the lead organizer and liaison for DRUM with the United We Dream network, and for the Administrative Relief campaign

Panel #3

Interfaith Solidarity &

Emerging Muslim-Jewish Alliances


Cheikh Ahmed Mbareck was born in 1970 and raised in Mauritania. Upon arrival to the United States, Mr. Mbareck has become a leading voice on Muslim issues. He is the founder of New York Coalition Against Islamophobia. Mr. Mbareck is also the Executive Director of the Majlis Ash Shura (Islamic Leadership Council) of Metropolitan New York. It is the largest coalition of mosques  in New York City, with over 83 members. As a distinguished Muslim leader, he engages in interfaith organizing dedicated to promoting understanding and harmony. He is active in doing outreach to marginalized migrant, Muslim communities and is involved in public advocacy, coalition building, civic engagement and community organizing. He has multiple degrees and is fluent in multiple languages.


Rabbi Robert (Bob) Kaplan is currently the founding Director of The Center for Community Leadership,  a division of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC), the central coordinating and resource body for 62 major Jewish organizations in the metropolitan New York area.  Mr. Kaplan is involved in a variety of issues including conflict resolution, coalition building, interracial/inter-religious relationships, combating hate crimes, and community building. He has served on the Board of Habitat for Humanity- NY and Health Plus and currently serves on the Boards of the Lutheran Medical Center and the Lutheran Family Health Care Centers as well as the Board of the Center of Ethnic and Community Media at the City University of New York. Amongst the leadership initiatives he has founded are; YouthBridge-NY, the We Are All Brooklyn, and Queens, We Are the Bronx, Community Connections, and Haitian Leaders Fellowships.

Stay tuned for a detailed, full-day program, with more exciting news coming soon!