Live from the Lilith Blog 1 of 2

June 19, 2017 by

On the Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Trail

What’s a Jew to do?

In the last 24 hours, two brutal attacks on Muslims made the news: on Sunday, the bludgeoning death of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen after leaving a Virginia mosque with friends; then Monday, a van driven into a crowd leaving a mosque north of London, one man dead at the scene, eight hospitalized. The attacks make calls for Muslim-Jewish solidarity even more compelling. 

But just a little over a week ago, I answered the call to action with hesitancy—“NY ♡ Muslims” rally and march Saturday, June 10. A gathering of love in response to the nationwide rallies of Act for America, a Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate group, against sharia law (read “Muslims”).

Photo credit: Amy Stone

Photo credit: Amy Stone

First my quibble over the name – “NY ♡ Muslims.” Sounds so condescending. Would anyone say NY ♡ Jews? NY ♡ Women? Beyond that, does a rally reacting to racism only increase the attention?

But I decided to put my body where my mouth is—and show up at the Manhattan rally at City Hall, just a few blocks from the Foley Square court buildings where the Act for America March Against Sharia was taking place.

 

Photo credit: Amy Stone

Photo credit: Amy Stone

A gorgeous June day. A crowd of a few hundred by my guesstimate. NYC establishment speakers (beloved Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer; Comptroller Scott Stringer, related to Bella Abzug and our fair city’s most outspoken anti-Trump elected official), and a lineup of women including activist Rabbi Barat Ellman; Michelle Koch, executive director of NYC Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee; and women in hijab head coverings. Lots of homemade signs along with printed signs: “NYC PROTECTS our neighbors” with the rally organizers NYC ♡ Muslims, NY Immigration Coalition, and Council on American-Islamic Relations–NY. 

The long list of coalition partners includes  Women’s March Alliance, Black Lives Matter, International Socialist Organization—NYC, RUSA LGBT (Russian-Speaking American LGBT Association), and Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus. I was disappointed that the list didn’t include Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom.

Photo credit: Amy Stone

Photo credit: Amy Stone

One African-American Muslim family is a magnet for photographers—woman in hijab, man in white skullcap holding printed sign “Muslim Families Are Working Families,” young sons in American flag baseball caps. Woman in purple hijab in front row carries sign: “I was born here. Where do you want me to go back to? My mother’s uterus?!?”  Signs of Jewish support:  “Jews Stand With Muslims.” “Never again.” “Proud Jewish Ally.” My personal fav: “America Welcomes ALL Religions. That was the whole damn point!!!” Ironically, we Jews show up in T-shirts, not religious garb. The women in Orthodox headgear unlikely to show up for a Shabbat rally.

Michelle Koch urges us all to speak to someone we didn’t come with. We follow her directive to get outside our same old, same old. This is about building friendships, tearing down walls.

Photo credit: Amy Stone

Photo credit: Amy Stone

Then the moment of truth. An outraged participant urges us to march to Foley Square and confront the Act for America demonstration. I hesitate. I go, glad that a few cops have peeled off with us. They’ve got our back.

We march the few blocks to Foley Square and are greeted by a raucous crowd of anti-Act for America demonstrators. I feel like our larger group is like the cavalry coming to their rescue. If we are the summer of love, this anti-Act for America crowd is the winter of our discontent. Vitriolic chants, “security” detail in bandanas covering their faces like the bad guys in Westerns.

Photo credit: Amy Stone

Photo credit: Amy Stone

I venture across the street to Act for America. A paltry turnout —a white speaker (male), with an African-American (male) standing right in front of him, holding a hand-lettered T-shirt reading “CNN is a terrorist org.” A woman with a “Stand Up For Western Values” printed T. Their own private security detail.

It’s a wavering line between hate speech and hate-filled action. Reports of violence came in from the June 10 Act for America for Rally in other cities, but not in New York. 

Meanwhile, I’m hoping to see more feminist responses to hate speech and hate crimes. And I’m hoping to see more Muslim-Jewish Sisterhood action. Seems the major logjam to more SOSS Muslim-Jewish women’s groups is too many Jewish women, not enough Muslims. So all you Muslim women readers of the Lilith blog, come join us. 

Contacts:

Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom—http://sosspeace.org

NYC Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee—http://nyc.muslimjewishsolidarity.org


The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Lilith Magazine.