Syracuse, New York has long been a site where diversity flourishes. For nearly a millennium, the region has been home to the Haudenosaunee (“People of the Long House”), a league of six Native AmericanEach of the many Native American nations has its own distinctive life-ways, although there are some widely-shared characteristics. most Native life-ways are primarily transmitted through oral traditions; they are oriented toward living in relation to a sp... nations that was—and is—run by a consensus-based democratic government. At the turn of the nineteenth century, less than fifty years after the first Europeans founded a village on Onondaga Lake, Syracuse became a center of the American salt industry. Throughout that century and into the twentieth, the Erie Canal, and the railroad system transformed Syracuse from a small waterfront town to a bustling industrial city. During this time, the city’s Irish, Italian, and Jewish populations grew significantly, establishing nearly sixty Catholic congregations, dozens of ProtestantProtestant is a term used for the range of reform movements that broke with the Roman Catholic Church during the period called the Reformation. There are many branches of Protestantism, including the Lutherans, Anabaptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists... churchesThe term church has come to wide use to refer to the organized and gathered religious community. In the Christian tradition, church refers to the organic, interdependent “body” of Christ’s followers, the community of Christians. Secondarily, church ..., and a handful of synagoguesSynagogue, shul in Yiddish, is the most widely used term for a Jewish house of worship. Meaning a “place of gathering,” it is the central institution of Jewish communal life. The structure and role of synagogues has changed through the centuries, but .... TempleA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... Concord, founded in 1911, is the ninth-oldest synagogueSynagogue, shul in Yiddish, is the most widely used term for a Jewish house of worship. Meaning a “place of gathering,” it is the central institution of Jewish communal life. The structure and role of synagogues has changed through the centuries, but ... in America.
During the early twentieth century, Syracuse’s industrial and scientific advancements brought jobs and education to the area through companies like General Motors, Chrysler, and General Electric. After World War II, Syracuse’s historic salt industry began to fail, the Erie Canal was replaced by the St. Lawrence Seaway, and the city’s factories and universities dwindled in size. During the 1950s and 1960s, the city saw a major demographic shift as African American families migrated to Syracuse’s declining manufacturing neighborhoods and farms and white residents left the city for newly forming suburbs.
Significant landmarks in Syracuse’s religious landscape mirror this shift. The People’s African MethodistThe Methodist church is a Protestant communion of churches which began in England with John Wesley (1703-91) and has become a worldwide movement. In the U.S., the United Methodist Church—one of the largest Protestant denominations—is known for its str... EpiscopalEpiscopal refers to any church in which authority is vested in a bishop (Greek episkopos). More particularly it refers to the Episcopal Church in America, which developed from the Church of England after the American Revolution. Zion ChurchThe term church has come to wide use to refer to the organized and gathered religious community. In the Christian tradition, church refers to the organic, interdependent “body” of Christ’s followers, the community of Christians. Secondarily, church ..., now located on South Salina Street, has played a key role in the life of Syracuse’s African American population since the mid-nineteenth century. The community’s leadership was involved first with the Underground Railroad and then the Civil Rights Movement. Just two blocks south of the People’s AME Zion Church, the American Muslim Community Center makes its home, one of several Nation of IslamIslam in Arabic literally means “submitting” or “submission.” One who submits or surrenders his or her will to God is called a Muslim. While the whole of God’s creation is described as being inherently Muslim, human beings must choose whether to... organizations located in southern Syracuse. The Islamic Society of Central New York is also nearby and an active participant in interfaith efforts in the city.
Since the 1970s, new immigration has also shaped the city’s religious landscape. Since the mid-1990s, the Hindu MandirA Hindu temple will be called a mandir in northern parts of India or a koyil in the south. There are many styles of temples and temple-complexes, but most temples are laid out according to precise dimensions and proportions and erected to be the symbolic ... of Central New York has served the needs of the area’s growing Hindu community. Located at the northwest corner of Onondaga Lake, the temple and community center is dedicated to Sri LakshmiLakshmi is the goddess who embodies auspiciousness, wealth, and good fortune. She is often regarded as a wife of Vishnu or Narayana and is worshipped especially in the fall festival of lights called Divali. and employs a full-time priestA priest is the leader of a religious community or congregation, specially trained and often ordained to service, who leads members of the community in the rituals and practice of shared and individual life. Many traditions have forms of priesthood.In the.... Nearby, the Jain Center of New York has a presence in Liverpool. A Vietnamese Buddhist templeBuddhist temples differ considerably from one another depending upon culture and particular school, but most are associated with the residence of the sangha of monks. Theravada temples focus on one or more images of Sakyamuni Buddha. In Mahayana and Vajra..., ChuaChua is the Vietnamese term for temple. The Buddhist temples of Southeast Asia are distinctive in that the monastery and temple complex form a single institution. Di Lac, sits at the southeastern tip of Onondaga Lake, closer to downtown. The temple, one of several in Syracuse, annually attracts hundreds from around the Northeast for Le Vu Lan, Parents’ Day, a celebration that occurs each July. The SikhSikhs call their tradition the “Sikh Panth,” meaning the “community (panth) of the disciples of the Guru.” The tradition reveres a lineage of ten Gurus, beginning with Guru Nanak in the 16th century and coming to a clos. with the death of Guru Gob... community uses Syracuse’s close proximity to the Adirondack Mountains as an opportunity to host Khanda Camp, a summer camp for Sikh youth.
Today, the Emerald City is being shaped anew by its large refugee population. Fifty percent of immigrants living in Syracuse are refugees. These men, women, and children come from places like Sudan, Somalia, Liberia, Burma, Cambodia, Uzbekistan, Cuba, Vietnam, Colombia, the Congo, and Ethiopia and many hope to find work in the city’s remaining factories.
Providing social services and stability for the region’s diverse population poses a distinct challenge for Syracuse, especially with 31 percent of the city’s residents living below the poverty line and 69.5 percent of adults living without a high school diploma. Although the charge is steep, many religious communities and interfaith organizers are stepping up to help. From the Elmwood Interfaith Food Pantry to the Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse, Syracuse residents are dedicating time and energy toward issues of poverty, housing, racism, public education, refugee resettlement, and childhood literacy. In 2003, following a federal raid on immigrant homes, Women Transcending Boundaries banded together to combat discrimination against Muslims in Syracuse; by 2009, they had raised nearly $9,000 to aid women and families in Central New York. InterFaith Works of Central New York founded the Center for New Americans Refugee Resettlement Program, which offers free English education, sewing and cooking workshops, personal finance education and counseling, citizenship classes, and food drives for incoming families.
While Syracuse’s economy has fallen on hard times in recent decades, the growing diversity of its residents continues to inspire churches, mosquesMasjid (plural masajid) in Arabic means “place of prostration,” or the place where Muslims bow in prayer; in English, this word has become “mosque.” A masjid contains a prayer hall in which there is a mihrab or prayer niche, and a minbar or pulpit..., templesA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref..., synagogues, gurdwarasThe gurdwara, “the gateway of the Guru,” is the place for community gathering and worship in the Sikh tradition. The Guru is the Adi Granth, the sacred scripture of the Sikh tradition. Each center will include a chamber where the Adi Granth is kept, a..., and individuals to work together for the common good. This commitment to cooperation will no doubt be pivotal to improving Syracuse for future generations.