About two dozen rabbis from throughout New York City erected a sukkah — or temporary dwelling — outside Trump Tower on Monday to call on President Donald Trump to offer “shelter” and “refuge” to immigrants.
The rabbis, some of whom are immigrants themselves, held up signs that included messages such as “My father was a Syrian refugee” and “You shall love the immigrant.”
The sukkah is 6-foot-tall structure with fabric walls and a bamboo roof. The group kept it up for about 45 minutes while they demonstrated.
Rabbi Jill Jacobs said the symbolic structure represents fragility and community.
“What keeps us strong in America is our community and the people who come here,” she said at the demonstration Monday.
The peaceful demonstration occurred hours after the Trump administration released an immigration wish-list Sunday night, that some Democrats have said will derail a possible deal to renew the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program that offers protected status to nearly 800,000 students and young adults brought to the United States as minors.
Trump’s list to Congress includes funding for a border wall, which Democrats have said they will not support.
“Rabbis coming together to build this sacred structure during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot is intended to protest the Trump administration’s inhumane immigration policies,” said Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah, a coalition of 1,800 U.S. rabbis who focus on human rights activism.
The protest coincided with the Biblical Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which signals the end of harvest time and the agricultural year in Israel and commemorates the sheltering of the Israelites in the wilderness, organizers said in a news release.
The organizers added in the release that the Trump administration’s policies and proposals “tear families apart and deny safe haven to those fleeing violence while pandering to the nativism and racism that have been prevalent this past year.”
Jacobs said such attitudes toward immigrants represent “the very opposite of the sense of welcome that has defined our country’s history,” and she noted that welcoming guests is an integral part of the holiday of Sukkot.
“We stand together in solidarity with everyone who is at risk today,” said Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, director of programs for T’ruah, one of the groups behind the protest.
Kahn-Troster said while the demonstration had long been in the works, the Trump administration’s announcement last night reinforced the need for the symbolic protest.
“We will spread the message of peace and welcome,” Kahn-Troster said.
Other rabbis participating in the demonstration included Rabbi Rachel Grant Meyer, education director of HIAS, a global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees, and Rabbi Mira Rivera of Harlem Hevruta.