Ensuring Freedom for All: A Letter from our Rabbis

As we welcome this anniversary of our nation’s independence, we rightfully celebrate the unique liberties we enjoy in America. At the same time, our Jewish heritage reminds us that our celebrations of liberty should compel us to work for the liberation of all.

This July 4th is especially bitter as it arrives amidst horrifying news of squalor and degradation emerging from the detention centers at which the very country we celebrate is confining those who seek the freedoms we enjoy. We have heard horrifying reports from Homestead, FL and Clint, TX, anguishing arguments over the minimal support our government is providing asylum seekers, and continuing coverage of children separated from their families. This should be troubling to all Americans; it is especially disconcerting to our Jewish community.

The question we ask ourselves, and which we are asked almost every day is: what can I do to make a difference?

The answer is: plenty.

Over the last few years we have been working with RefugeeOne, to help welcome and settle refugee families in Chicago. If you are interested in getting involved with RefugeeOne, email Rabbi Zinn.

Over the last year, especially since the horrors of families being torn apart came to light last summer, our Reform Movement is working nationally and locally under the leadership of our Religious Action Center (RAC). With our local partnership in RAC-IL, Sinai successfully teamed up with 26 other Reform Congregations and our community partners in the Campaign for a Welcoming Illinois in passing the Keep Illinois Families Together Act (KIFTA), a recently enacted law that makes it harder for families seeking refuge in Illinois to become detained by ICE. On the heels of this success, we are currently looking for other actions we can take. Stay tuned.

Nationally, the RAC is working on these issues on a daily basis. Last week, Reform Jews poured into Homestead, FL, in order to protest and to bear witness. Continuing campaigns and opportunities are evolving every day. The RAC has created an opportunity for all of us to become part of a rapid-response team so we can engage as opportunities emerge. You can sign up for that Rapid Response email list here.

There are many other worthwhile organizations working to end the horrors of these detentions and separations. We share a few worthy ones with you:

HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, whose leaders have spoken at Sinai often these past few years, have updated their web page on ways to take action for asylum seekers. This list will be regularly updated and includes a wide range of opportunities, which you can access here. HIAS just shared a new video: Asylum, An Essential Lifeline that provides historical context, explains the process all asylum seekers must follow in the US in accessible terms, and lets us hear directly from people who have been granted asylum about what this vital protection has meant to them.

Together Rising is an excellent group doing ground-up organizing on the efforts. You can learn about their efforts, how to participate and how to support them, here.

We are taught in the Mishnah that while we are not obligated to complete the work, neither are we free to abstain from it. We share these opportunities because we feel that you, like we, are moved deeply, and moved to action. We will continue to find ways to share new opportunities with the community, just as we will continue to support new refugee families through our partnership with RefugeeOne and advocate for more humane immigration policies together with RAC-IL.

We wish you a wonderful Independence Day, a day on which we re-commit ourselves to work for the independence of all,

Rabbi Seth M. Limmer
Rabbi Amanda Greene
Rabbi Todd Zinn

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