Hold onto your signs. There’s another rally in town.
But this time, the millennials are running the show.
The Muslim and Jewish Youth Solidarity Rally gathered at City Hall on Feb. 8 and marched to Independence Mall in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration.
Pele Irgangladen and Yafa Dias, both 24, organized the rally against the travel ban, which prevents people and refugees from “terror-prone” countries — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia — from entering the U.S. for 90 days.
Both are Temple University grads and met through their activism there.
“I am a predominantly Jewish community organizer,” said Irgangladen, who is active with If Not Now, though this rally was unaffiliated. “[Dias is] an organizer of Palestinian activism. We wanted to bring together Jewish people and Muslim people to commit to unconditional solidarity with each other.”
He said he felt a need for a rally like this one.
“We felt a pulse in our community that people wanted to do something,” he said. “The goal of this rally is for Jewish people and Muslim people to… see each other’s fights as part of the same fight, and to have the courage together to fight against Islamophobia, racism, anti-Semitism.
“What is happening today is young people who are leading youth organizations are speaking up and are saying, ‘Now it is our time to lead,’” he continued. “We’ve heard over the past two or three weeks a lot of explanations from institutional Jewish leaders, institutional Muslim leaders, from politicians, that really all of them seem to have no idea what’s going on. We are here as young people to take the reins and lead the way forward.”
Dias was active at Temple with Students for Justice in Palestine and more recently Jewish Voice for Peace. Both groups have taken positions in support of the boycott, sanctions and divestment (BDS) movement against Israel.
The organizers and several others led speeches at the rally.
“I hope [people] see that whatever the media say about Muslims and Jews is pretty much false, or at least lies — or second-question it,” she noted. “There are many Muslims and Jews all around the world who get along and are perfectly fine with each other and are happy with each other’s existence. We know how to communicate with one another.”
She hopes from this rally other young people can organize more movements together.
“To me, it just matters that the people who have made it out here benefit from it and actually meet one another and communicate with one another and we don’t just let this be a one-time thing,” she added.
For Dias, the travel ban was a real concern for her personally.
Her mother has been in Jordan for about a year, but intends to come back.
“Although Jordan isn’t one of the countries on the [travel ban] list, just because she’s Muslim they’d probably still give her a hard time,” she said.
“I would love for all Americans to be against the Muslim ban that’s going on right now,” she continued. “I hope people will continue to rise up and question what President Trump is doing and what he plans on doing in the future.”
Michaela Lieberman-Burak, 14, attended the rally with her mother and friends, many from her synagogue of Mishkan Shalom.
“We strongly disagree with Trump’s values, and we know that we have to stand up for everyone,” she said. “We want to protect Muslims.”
The teenager held up an image of Trump on Time magazine’s cover but depicted with a Hitler wig and mustache.
She said it pointed to “similarities” between the two, something she found “very frightening.”
“This shows never again,” she explained. “We cannot allow anything of that sort to happen again because people are amazing and should not be discriminated against for whatever reason.”
Sabriyyah Muhammad brought her three young daughters, Ayah, 8, Saniyyah, 8, and Hana, 6.
“We definitely want to flush [the girls] with good memories and positive memories and love and people coming together,” she said.
Muhammad said rallies like this will have an impact on people visiting Philadelphia as well as the people who live here.
“We’re totally against the hatred that Donald Trump’s spewing, so we want to support positive efforts and communities coming together,” she added.
But if there’s one thing to take away from the rally overall, she said: “Hope. Hope. Definitely hope.”
That hope rang out in song in the center of City Hall.
Of the roughly 200 in the crowd, people of all ages — many were college students or parents with young children — locked arms in rows of 10 and lined up to march down Market Street.
The group marched on one side of the street, accompanied by police officers on bicycles forming a barrier around them, to Independence Mall.
The Muslim and Jewish solidarity rally marched from City Hall to Independence Mall.
Posted by Jewish Exponent on Wednesday, February 8, 2017
They gathered around a monument engraved with the words of the First Amendment, and read it aloud together.
As it was a youth rally, children were able to share their opinions and grievances about the current political climate and what they’ve seen on TV and in the news.
Even as some of their voices cracked through the megaphone, the group of strong-spoken youths had no problems with public speaking, and they expressed firm viewpoints that ranged from raw and moving to simple kindergarten logic, like “Trump is a big jerk.”
Others, like 10-year-old Manaf, shared more personal words.
“My name is Manaf, and I’m a Muslim,” said the boy, who attended the rally with his Jewish friend and his friend’s mother.
He explained how he’s lived in America for half of his life, and he’s “always had peace” and now has many friends.
“It’s really great to express your feelings to people that are helping you and ever since I came here … I barely knew English but there’s this girl [in my class] and she helped me and taught me about everything. That’s why I’m proud to be here today.”
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