In a demonstration of interfaith solidarity, the Muslim Student Association and Penn Hillel will co-sponsor a bus to the Women’s March on Washington this Saturday.
Nursing sophomore Du’aa Moharram and College junior Esther Cohen, the student coordinators from MSA and Hillel, respectively, spoke of the parallels between the Muslim and Jewish communities, especially on Penn’s campus, but added, “There is such limited interaction on campus.”
“This march and this bus will let us have a lot of the discussions that we need,” Moharram said.
Cohen and Moharram each spoke of intolerance and “fears of cultural infiltration” they felt were promoted by the campaign of President-elect Trump. Both women feel that this display of solidarity will inspire an ongoing dialogue and partnership between MSA and Hillel at Penn.
“We [the Muslim-American and Jewish American communities] have a lot to give to each other,” Cohen said. “With all the rhetoric against Muslims in the past presidential campaign, to me it really echoes the rhetoric that has been made against us [the Jewish community] for generations.”
Both Cohen and Moharram said their understandings of activism and social justice have changed since the past election cycle. Their separate efforts to explore women’s rights in their respective communities led them to unite in solidarity as an interfaith opposition to Trump.
“We are only stronger together,” Schachter said. “This is a moment for change and cross-cultural exchange.”
The interfaith-sponsored bus, like the Women’s March on Washington, allows students with little to no background in social justice to become “motivated and energized by their reactions to the past election,” Rabbi Ilana Schacter said, who is a Penn senior Jewish educator and campus rabbi.
The idea to send a bus to Washington first emerged during a conversation between Cohen and Schachter. Cohen, a staunch Hillary supporter, knew she wanted to go to the march since late November but quickly found it expensive to get a ticket due to the popular demand. Schachter suggested that they get a bus to take Penn students to Washington as a school-wide event.
However, once students returned from break, many students began coming to see Schachter at Hillel, interested in discussing “Judaism in terms of social justice,” Schachter said.
It was then through Schachter’s relationship with Penn’s Muslim Chaplain Patricia Anton, and similar conversations that Anton had with students, that the idea for an interfaith bus finally came to fruition.
While the issues that face the Women’s March on Washington and the activists aboard the interfaith bus are complex, their goals are simple.
“We will be a force of solidarity, and a message to Trump, the new administration, and to the country.” Moharram said. “It is now critical for student groups to be active allies together.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Esther Cohen said "We are only stronger together...This is a moment for change and cross-cultural exchange.” It was actually said by Ilana Schachter. The DP regrets the error.