Neither sleet nor rain were enough to stop crowds from voicing their support of America’s newest and most vulnerable residents at New York City’s Jewish Rally for Refugees. HIAS, the Jewish charitable organization that services immigrant populations, organized the event and estimated that roughly 1,000 attended.
Among the speakers were such illustrious names as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Rep. Keith Ellison, the frontrunner for chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Jewish leaders who spoke included Anti-Defamation League Executive Director Jonathan Greenblatt and the day’s emcee, Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein, Executive Director of the 14th Street Y.
The event was just part of a “National Day of Action for Refugees,” which featured 17 events in total in other major cities, like Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as in smaller communities, like Kansas City, Mo., Newark, Del., and Kenosha, Wis.
“No freezing rain is going to stop us from fighting for justice,” de Blasio said when addressing the crowd.
Persistence was a theme for a number of speakers, including Comptroller Scott Stringer, who addressed both refugees and Pres. Donald Trump.
“To our refugees, we say come one, come all,” Stringer said. “And we say to Donald Trump, get out of the way.”
The Day of Action was organized largely to protest Trump’s executive order suspending the U.S. refugee program and banning travel from seven majority-Muslim countries.
“In the face of President Trump’s executive order slamming America’s doors to refugees, the Jewish community is mobilizing for the safety and dignity of victims of violence and persecution around the world,” HIAS declared when announcing the cross-country activities. Since then, a federal court ruled to suspend the order, saying that it was likely to be ruled unconstitutional.
— Lorenz Wolffers (@LorenzWolffers) February 12, 2017
Gary Shteyngart, author of such celebrated comic novels as “Super Sad True Love Story,” also spoke. Like many in the crowd, who held signs referring to the Holocaust, the refugee crisis was “personal” for Shteyngart, maybe more personal: HIAS helped his own family immigrate to the United States when he was a child.
Shteyngart said that he was “honored” to partake in the Day of Action on Twitter, but one attendee was not happy with Shteyngart’s appearance, showing that it was impossible to see the writer’s head above the sea of umbrellas.
In response, Shteyngart promised to “grow a foot” for his next public speaking event.