By Carol Tannenhauser
A quiet crowd lit candles and prayed at Rutgers Presbyterian Church on 73rd Street on Monday night. The church had been expecting to welcome a family of eight Syrian refugees on Monday and help them get settled in a new home in New Jersey, but those plans were derailed by President Trump’s executive order banning Syrian refugees from entering America indefinitely.
The family had been vetted for more than two years, church leaders said. They were supposed to be the second refugee family welcomed by a group of NYC religious organizations, including Rutgers’s Presbyterian Church and B’nai Jeshurun, also on the Upper West Side.
Pastor Andrew Stehlik and Parish Associate George Williamson, gave short speeches and bible readings, including the passage that begins, “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Stehlik said the vigil was “a place to center ourselves spiritually and prepare for a long struggle.”
The people began to light candles, first as a group, then individually, for prayer and contemplation. It was startlingly beautiful when a woman spontaneously sang the Hebrew Shema.
Carlin Meyer, who came to the event after reading about it in West Side Rag, said she found the service comforting. “I only read about it 30 minutes ago, and I very much support refugees and what this church is doing, so I decided to come over.”
Photos by Carol Tannenhauser.