Syracuse, once an industrial stronghold and the salt capital of the United States, today finds itself struggling in the wake of the industrial collapse of recent decades. Sustained interfaith efforts have made the “Emerald City” a resettlement site for over 13,000 refugees from places such as Sudan, Somalia, Liberia, Burma, Cambodia, Uzbekistan, Cuba, Vietnam, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia; as a result, nearly fifty percent of foreign-born individuals in the city are refugees. A relatively small city of 145,000, fifty-seven percent of Syracusans who identified with a religious tradition in 2009 claimed Roman Catholicism as their faith. Yet the presence of religious diversity is clear; Buddhists and Muslims have been a part of the religious landscape since the mid-1970s and the ninth oldest synagogue in the nation, built in Syracuse in 1839, remains an active congregation.
Interfaith efforts in the city are similarly well established and continue to expand; 9/11 prompted the formation of a dynamic women’s interfaith organization that has gained national attention. The city’s economic woes and growing immigrant population have seeded interfaith responses such as the Alliance for Communities Transforming Syracuse, a coalition of labor, religious, and community organizations and Interfaith Works of Central New York’s incredibly successful refugee resettlement program.