Religions and Spirituality

Jewish Group Protests Islamophobia in New Brunswick

Protesters organize on Jan. 19 near the train station in New Brunswick.
Marion Munk holds pro-immigrant and anti-Donald Trump signs.
The protesters as seen from across Albany Street.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – A dozen or so protesters rallied outside the train station yesterday evening, calling for an end to anti-Muslim speech and actions.

The event was small but lively. People young and old held signs tattooed with slogans like “immigrants welcome” and “stand with Muslims vs. Islamophobia.” A man strummed an acoustic guitar and sang as an accordionist riffed along.

“We’re interested in just making it a more welcoming world, which I don’t think we’re going to have over the next four years,” said Marion Munk, a protester from Piscataway.

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The activist group Central Jersey Jewish Voice for Peace, which includes Jewish people and others, organized the New Brunswick demonstration. It occurred on the corner of Albany Street and Easton Avenue around 5 p.m. as rush-hour traffic hustled past.

While the group didn’t consciously choose to host the gathering on the night before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Munk said the scheduling seemed fitting.

Trump, who took the oath of office in rainy Washington, D.C. around noon today, has emerged as a divisive figure in American politics. A good portion of the country has rallied around his message of making America great again, while many others have condemned his rhetoric and proposals as hateful or regressive.

The new president’s policies and words could prove particularly important in New Brunswick, Munk said.

“They have a thriving Hispanic community here now, and it does have a lot to lose,” she said.

Among Central Jersey Jewish Voice for Peace’s other causes are opposing abuses committed during the war on terror, condemning surveillance of Muslim and Arab communities, fighting police brutality and demanding “freedom” for Palestinians in Israel.

Tzvia Thier spent most of her life in Israel. Now in her 70s, she didn’t talk to a Palestinian until November 2009.

That, she claimed, is because she was indoctrinated into believing they were the enemy.

Israelis and Palestinians, of course, have long disputed who owns particular sections of land in the Middle East. That and how the two groups have treated each other have for years remained hot-button issues in international politics.

“It is so obvious this is colonialism,” Thier said of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. “The colonialists take from them everything they have.”

Dave Lippman, the guitarist, passed out mock business cards belonging to “Davey Drumpf, presidential third cousin, twice removed,” a satirical character he plays as a knock against Trump.

Some drivers beeped their car horns as they approached the group. But whether those honks were signs of support or opposition to the message—or a mere warning to another slow-moving driver—is anyone’s guess.

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