Fordham Pie Contest Raises Funds and Awareness for Syrian Refugees

By Rachel Nusbaum,

Step one: Buy a pie.

Step two: Throw the pie at a professor or fellow student.

Step three: Help Refugees.

Such was the proposition at a recent fundraiser held at Fordham University in New York City. The November 10 event was organized by the Muslim Students’ Association and the Jewish Students Organization, who jointly organized the event. Their goal was to raise money, and support, for Syrian refugees.

In addition to raising awareness within the Fordham community, the event raised more than $1,200 in support of HIAS’ work with Syrian refugees. A theater group on campus, Splinter, was so impressed by the event that they decided to donate the proceeds of their own annual fundraiser to HIAS as well.

They also recruited ten students, all of whom are fluent in Arabic, to serve as volunteer translators for refugees. Emen Tabit, a senior at Fordham, was among the volunteers.

Tabit grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, which is home to a large Arab-American community. “I had plenty of Syrian friends growing up, so I understand the dialect,” Tabit said. Her family is from Morocco, where she spends every summer, so she is at home speaking in both Arabic and English. She even spent time volunteering as a translator at a hospital on the border in Turkey.

“What I saw there is that language, and translation, is a tool to help people,” Tabit said. “In a new country where you don’t know the language, it can be so overwhelming. Especially when you have important things to communicate, like in a hospital. Just having someone say, ‘I’m here, I understand you’ can be such a relief,” she explained.

Tabit is pre-med, so time is in short supply. “Yeah, I have a lot to do and I’m always going to be busy, but I feel like this is a priority,” she said. “Language is such a basic need. I want to use my talents to help.”

Jason Morris, chair of the department of natural sciences at Fordham University, is the faculty advisor for Hillel at the school and helped organize the event. The fundraiser’s success “highlighted what makes Fordham College at Lincoln Center such a terrific community,” Morris said.  

“If we can encourage American doors to stay open, to take people in, I think that’s the greatest thing about this country and as a patriotic citizen I want to help that,” Morris told the Fordham Observer.

“Everyone I have spoken with, students and faculty, thought it was a terrifically successful event and that it exceeded expectations in terms of turnout, money raised, and community building,” Morris told  “I was so happy to be able to show support for our immigrant students and Muslim students at a time like this as well, and to have the Jewish student organization, Hillel and HIAS as partners made me especially proud as an engaged Jew.” 

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