April 16, 2024
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Jew in the City Pop-Up Raises Awareness

(Courtesy of Jew in the City) Jew in the City, the organization dedicated to reversing negative associations about Orthodox Jews, pitched a tent on a busy Harlem street corner on a recent Monday morning, interacting with passersby. Dozens of people took advantage of the two-hour window of opportunity to meet and interact with Orthodox Jews, possibly for the first time. The “Meet a Jew. Make a Friend.” pop-up makes Jew in the City the first Jewish group to engage in active outreach in a minority community during the ongoing rash of anti-Semitic assaults and attacks.

Allison Josephs, the social entrepreneur who founded Jew in the City and serves as its executive director, explained why she would choose to stand on Third Avenue and East 106th Street on a cold morning schmoozing with strangers:

“When this uptick in violence went from assault to actual murder, we felt a responsibility. There’s only so much you can do online, where we usually are. When you want to meet people face to face you have to meet them where they are. While it’s wonderful for elected officials and others to attend marches and offer platitudes, they fail to address the core issue of anti-Semitism, which is not enough exposure between groups of people. When people see each other as labels and not fellow human beings, walls go up, suspicion goes up and hate goes up. When there is dialogue, there is a chance for common humanity to be shared and to learn about one another. We came to Harlem today to start a dialogue.”

And she did. “People were very gracious, telling me, ‘We’re praying for you,’ or ‘I’m so happy you’re here.’ We got a lot of those comments. It was very heartwarming. One man even said he’s planning to visit Israel soon.”

But can such a simple act really bring people together? Yes, it can, said a retired New York City employee with a warm smile who grew up and still lives nearby. “Living in New York City, that’s what we’re supposed to do. Everyone is supposed to be welcome here, regardless of race, creed, color or age.”

The tent, open on all four sides, led more than one observer who knows their bible to make a connection with the patriarch Abraham, who was known for his hospitality. Banners read, “Meet A Jew. Make A Friend.” A sign listed “Foundational Principles of Judaism” such as “All people are created in the image of God and share a common ancestry,” and “The world is built on kindness.” Another explained the differences between various Orthodox groups. Jew in the City volunteers served up coffee and kosher pastries and engaged in friendly conversations of their own, explaining Jewish customs to curious passersby.

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