Above: pictured, Millie Huntington giving her speech. Below: pictured, Josh Mutterperl holding a sign saying “Stick Together” surrounded by fellow MARites at the Interfaith Solidarity Rally.
At NFTY-MAR’s Winter Kallah 2020, we hosted an Interfaith Solidarity Rally. The region first learned about solidarity and the importance of building relationships between communities of different faiths through an informative video. Participants dove deeper into Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and Indigenous religious oppression, and then made a poster with a statement regarding an expression of interfaith solidarity. Upon completion, MARites entered the main room which was transformed into a lively rally centered around interfaith solidarity. One could hear chants started such as, “Ho Ho, hey hey! We say ‘we’ instead of ‘they’.” The room was buzzing with supportive chatter and full of bright posters and signs. Possibly the most impactful part of the weekend was the speeches given at the rally by NFTY-MAR teen participants. Millie Huntington’s speech below, opened up the rally.
October 27th, 2018-The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania experienced a mass shooting, where 11 people were killed. In support, $200,000 flooded to the synagogue from the Muslim community. In March of 2019, 51 individuals were killed in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the Tree of Life synagogue immediately responded, raising $11,000 in the first three days following the massacre. Many asked, why the outreach? Out of all people, why were two religions who have been known to stand against each other the ones to rise up? The reason is interfaith solidarity.
Solidarity is awareness of others and their unification regardless of the variances in beliefs and customs. Our differences in beliefs are not meant to pit us against one another, they aren’t meant to prohibit us from being decent human beings. We come together because we have been persecuted by ignorance.
You can look to 9/11 to see that the Jewish people haven’t been the only group to experience hatred. After the World Trade Centers fell, Muslims from around the U.S. found themselves in fear. This fear stemmed from an umbrella assumption, that all Muslims are terrorists. This false belief makes the daily occurrences in life stressful to innocent people, which continues to this day. TSA will take an extra hard look at a Muslim going through security, and citizens from certain countries will be banned to enter another just because of their religious beliefs. Our practice of solidarity is acknowledging our differences and uniting because of them.
When someone’s belief systems our different from our own, it gives us the opportunity to learn, to grow. The significance can be seen in nature by a process known as grafting. Grafting, for those of you who don’t know, is when a tissue from one plant is taken and joined with another so the pieces can continue their growth together. Sometimes you can find the perfect explanation in life, and that shared growth is the one for interfaith solidarity. We stand up for those of different faiths because we know the prejudice, intolerance. The truth that we acknowledge is that of our humanity, and for us to grow, to be accepting of one another, we must do so together. There are over seven billion people on this planet, and we have each been raised differently, with varying religions, and unique exposure to different cultures. We, as Jews especially, have known that if you aren’t seen as the majority, you are seen as wrong. There is always the outcast factor, and our need to exhibit reluctance, because to announce who we are could be detrimental to our safety.
Why do humans fear those who are different than themselves? The answer may be the absence of an open mind- the absence of an open heart. There isn’t one way to live life, there isn’t a handbook instructing everyone to be the same. However, that is why interfaith solidarity is so important. We need to hear. We need to respect. We stand together, united, and practice interfaith solidarity because we evoke patience, acceptance, and change.
Speech- Millie Huntington
Rally facilitator and program writer- Lee Smith
Photographs- Olivia Prouty
Preface- Noah Volin