By way of RNS — One of the vital duties of any group’s elders is to guard kids — all kids. One obligation of rabbis is to like Torah, stay Torah and draw on the expertise of Jewish historical past as persevering with Torah. For us, each elders and rabbis, these two imperatives got here collectively in our protest of the therapy of youngsters on the U.S.-Mexico border — and clarify why we had been arrested final week outdoors the Immigration and Customs Enforcement workplace in Philadelphia.
The occasions resulting in our arrest truly started within the spring of 2018. Like many People, we had been horrified to study that the U.S. authorities was separating kids from their dad and mom and guardians as they crossed our border from international locations the place their lives had been in peril into what they hoped was security.
As dad and mom and grandparents, as lecturers and rabbis and as Jews, we had been deeply shaken as a result of we understood that this was not solely a merciless and illegal act but in addition one that may traumatize these kids and their households for at the least three generations to come back.
We attended a rally on the Philadelphia ICE workplace in June 2018, but it surely didn’t really feel as if rallies and demonstrations had been sufficient. That day a colleague from the social justice actions of the 1960s articulated this sense: We should do one thing simpler to vary this case.
Later that month, we had been invited by the American Federation of Academics to go together with a gaggle of educators and spiritual leaders to El Paso, Texas, to ship containers to kids being detained close by within the small city of Tornillo, near the Mexican border.
The containers contained stuffed animals, books in Spanish, paper for drawing and writing, toiletries, clear underwear — objects we believed would possibly humanize some facet of this horrendous expertise.
On our method to Tornillo, a neighborhood resident informed us that the ingesting water in Tornillo was contaminated, one thing we’ve been unable to corroborate however made the state of affairs appear much more horrific.
After we arrived on the jail, situated in a brutally sizzling barren desert, the guards refused to allow us to in to see, converse with or consolation the kids. Worse, they’d not ship the containers of products so lovingly packed by the lecturers’ union for the kids. Many people non secular leaders led prayers for the kids’s speedy launch to their dad and mom and for our authorities’s speedy return to sanity. A kind of prayers has not but been absolutely answered; the opposite, by no means.
We got here house much more distressed. Who knew what different cruelties had been in retailer for these kids and their dad and mom?
That evening, our group of protesting elders met for a second time, and two days later, on July 1, 2018, we held an motion on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in Philadelphia that shut down the workplace for a number of hours and resulted in six of us being arrested.
ElderWitness & Buddies had been born. The following week, a couple of youthful folks sat in and closed the ICE workplace for a number of days, till they, too, had been arrested.
By this summer season ElderWitness & Buddies held an motion at Independence Corridor that drew practically 100 folks; we arrange a cage to imitate people who held kids whose dad and mom had been searching for asylum. About 40 folks stepped into the cage holding up posters of every of the 7 kids who’ve died in detention as others learn a narrative of their temporary life and pointless demise.
The motion drew a whole lot of native publicity, however a few of us once more felt the immoral practices of our authorities demanded greater than political road theater.
At a gathering of ElderWitness in late July, we agreed to a different motion on Sept. 4, the opening week of college right here in Philadelphia, understanding that the kids within the administration’s focus camps had no college to return to of their new and unwelcome life as “criminals.”
We aren’t alone in our demonstrations in opposition to the outrages in opposition to kids. For the primary time in American Jewish historical past, massive cohorts of the Jewish group have come collectively to withstand a serious coverage precedence of the U.S. authorities.
Truah, the Rabbinic Name for Human Rights and By no means Once more Motion, the latter a swiftly gathered new community of largely youthful Jews, have impressed or carried out dozens of actions and tons of of arrests across the nation.
American Jews are responding to 4 details of Jewish historical past and Scripture:
Torah instructions that we deal with “foreigners” with the total dignity of residents and residents: “One law for the home-born and the immigrant,” and that we welcome refugees from a merciless overlord to stay wherever they select inside our gates. “Do not deport them to their masters; do not mistreat them!” No shock for a individuals who noticed itself as a band of runaway slaves, a folks threatened by a pharaoh’s command to homicide kids.
For 2 thousand years, Jews have been pressured to hunt refuge from persecution by nation after nation.
Simply 70 years in the past, these Jewish refugees from World Battle II who had been turned away by the USA and different nations had been then returned to Jap Europe to be murdered in demise camps.
Virtually each American Jewish household remembers a grandparent or great-grandparent who was an immigrant.
Final week, members of ElderWitness donned Statue of Liberty costumes and once more went contained in the cage, placing Liberty herself in jail. We repeated the phrases of among the kids in detention as they described their traumatized state of affairs separated from their dad and mom.
On the finish of the group’s choreographed motion, the 2 of us and two different Elders blocked the doorways of ICE. The federal Division of Homeland Safety, not the extra pleasant Philadelphia police, arrested us with two citations amounting to fines of $500 for every particular person.
We’re contemplating whether or not to pay the fines or stand trial — with the danger of jail and the attainable alternative to make the necessity for resistance even clearer.