Last week, Jews were put at the center of the conversation around the detention camps at the U.S. border due to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling them “concentration camps.” As usual, our community was far from united in our reaction to the use of that terminology. Many felt that a Holocaust comparison was inappropriate while others argued that the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers warranted extreme language. The Jewish community may be divided about what to call the camps, but 78% of us disapprove of this administration’s policy at the border.
Unfortunately, as we argue about semantics, the situation at the border just keeps getting worse and worse. The Trump administration argued last week that the children don’t need toothbrushes or soap, and four children were rushed to the hospital because lawyers happened to visit the site and save them.
It is our Jewish duty to stand with marginalized communities and protect refugees in any way we can. The Holocaust Museum said in 2017 that “American policy should fully address national security concerns while protecting legitimate refugees whatever their national or religious identity.” Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg also wrote a thread on Twitter using the story of Hagar to show the Jewish duty to care for the “non citizen.”
Many of us feel powerless to help those separated from their families at the border. But even if you’re not a lawyer or politician, there are always concrete actions we can take. Here are ways to start:
1. Petition. T’ruah, the rabbinic call for human rights, is circulating a petition to call on Congress to pass legislation like the Shut Down Child Prison Camps Act and Families Not Facilities Act. You can sign the petition here and make sure to share it!
2. Donate. There are a lot of organizations that are mobilizing right now to help those at the border. Please consider donating to one or all of the following if you are able:
• Immigrant Families Together is accepting donations to pay the bond of asylum seekers to help reunite them with their children as quickly as possible.
• Immigrant Justice Now is accepting donations or you can directly buy items from their Amazon wish list to get supplies to immigrant families and their children.
• The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights is accepting donations that will go toward providing more child advocates to help the children in the detention centers and accompany them to their hearings.
• You can find more organizations to help on this list, especially if you’re a lawyer willing to provide pro-bono services.
3. Inform. The ICE raids threatened this week were put off after much outrage, but we must stay vigilant in protecting our communities. Consider printing out these flyers and putting them in your window or handing them out to people in your communities (they are available in several languages).
One of the most important things we can do to fight the atrocities at the border is to stay politically involved. Keep calling your representatives and vote in every single election no matter how local. It’s the Jewish thing to do.
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