Religious groups unite over Elm City ID card

Members of Yale’s religious community showed solidarity last night in more ways than one.

“Strangers No More,” a panel held Thursday night as part of Dwight Hall’s New Haven Solidarity Week, brought together about 40 Yale students of numerous faiths to discuss the Elm City ID card. The newly re-formed Interfaith Alliance for Justice — which comprises members of groups such as St. Thomas More, Jews for Justice, the Muslim Students Association and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan de Yale — coordinated the event.

As the audience sampled an array of exotic desserts, members of the various groups took turns speaking about the ways in which each of their religions advocates solidarity, community and compassion.

Raphael Magarik ’10, a member of Jews for Justice and a panel coordinator, said the Jewish experience of immigration demands that Jews act justly toward others.

“The difficulty that immigrants in New Haven are having right now is not foreign to American Jewish history,” he said.

Josh Williams ’08, a member of Christian organization SALT of the Earth, said that since Christians believe that God lives in everyone, they must be kind to all people.

“We have no right to say, ‘Who should I be a neighbor to?’ ” SALT of the Earth members said in a joint statement. “We should be a neighbor to everybody.”

The evening ended in song, with audience members singing “We Shall Overcome” and “This Land is Your Land,” whose lyrics in later verses are a little more subversive than the commonly known first verse — “As I went walking, I saw a sign there / And on the sign it said “No Trespassing” / But on the other side it didn’t say nothing / That side was made for you and me.”

Tamika Aaron DIV ’08, who is the Reverend John G. McGee Dwight Hall fellow, composed a poem for the occasion that spoke in favor of something beyond simply solidarity.

“I was reflecting — if someone is not a stranger anymore, then what could that person possibly be?” Aaron said. “If I was really to be in solidarity with people, I could welcome those people into my space. We have to be open to another level of relationship, of intimacy.”

The coordinators of the panel said they were happy with the panel’s success in increasing solidarity among members of different faiths in addition to celebrating the solidarity between Yalies and immigrants in New Haven.

Aaron Littman ’10, a member of Jews for Justice and one of the coordinators of the panel, said the goal of the event was to attract attendees who might not have participated in some of the other Solidarity Week events.

“It was important because it was a less political perspective, particularly since most immigrant communities are faith-oriented,” he said.

Littman said he thinks the event was successful in this regard, as many people he did not recognize from earlier events came to express their spiritual solidarity with New Haven immigrants.

Magarik was also pleased with the success of the panel, he said.

“I was surprised and delighted by the soulfulness, the energy and the wisdom that a diverse range of people of faith were able to call forth in their convocation for freedom,” he said.

Solidarity Week ends today, with a Solidarity Walk at noon and applications for Elm City ID available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Dwight Hall.

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