In December 2017, the B’nai Jeshurun Board of Trustees unanimously voted to declare BJ a sanctuary congregation, one that will stand by immigrant communities in this country.
By making this formal declaration, we have added our name to the list of faith institutions across the U.S., including over 40 synagogues, who have publicly affirmed their religious commitment to keep America a safe and welcoming home.
Why have we taken this step?
Our decision to become a sanctuary congregation is grounded in our Jewish teachings and heritage. The most frequently mentioned mitzvah in the Torah commands us to “love the stranger” (for we were strangers in the land of Egypt). The Torah goes further and asserts that there should be one law for “immigrant and citizen alike.” These teachings compel us to defend the rights of immigrants and refugees.
As Jews, we have been the immigrant, the outsider, throughout our long history. Our own individual and family narratives are rooted in the immigrant experience in America. These experiences often involve stories of arriving alone with little money, no job and no knowledge of English. All came seeking the promise of America. Today we are obligated to carry that promise forward for immigrants and refugees today.
The threats to immigrants and those seeking refugee status in our country are grave and violate basic standards of human rights and decency. At a time when the number of refugees and immigrants living in or seeking to the enter the United States is larger than ever before, our country is turning its back on these vulnerable individuals, families and communities.
- Without a legislative solution 800,000 DACA youth (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) will begin to be deported to their native countries that they left as infants or young children.
- Immigrants communities are being terrorized by threats to deportation and the presence of ICE officers throughout their neighborhoods.
- The number of family-based visa approvals for relatives who were not immediate family members dropped by 70% in the first nine months of 201 to 32,500 down from over 108,000 in the same period of 2016.
- The number of refugees allowed into the US has dropped precipitously from 95,000 in 2016 to 22,000 in 2017 to an estimate of 15,000 in 2018.
What does it mean to be
a sanctuary congregation?
As a sanctuary congregation, we will not be providing physical sanctuary to undocumented immigrants, but will partner with other organizations and faith communities in activities that support immigrant communities. We will continue, strengthen and expand activities that the Immigrant and Refugee Hevrah and the Economic Justice Hevrah have initiated over the past several years.
- Provide support for 8 refugee families /individuals that have recently arrived in the U.S.
- Accompany undocumented immigrants to deportation hearings.
- Serve as English-language conversation partners to immigrant students enrolled in an English-language program.
- Provide resume writing skills workshops and follow-up one-on-one mentoring for immigrant students enrolled in an English Language program (Partner: Riverside Language Program.
- Place refugees in jobs.
- Advocate for immigrants and refugees at a local and national level.
- Assist at pro bono legal clinics that aid immigrants/refugees.
- Campaign for legislation that would extend labor rights to farmworkers in New York State–most of whom are immigrants.
Refugee & Immigration Committee
In addition to our participation in the Sanctuary Movement, BJ maintains an active Refugee & Immigration Committee. There are more refugees and displaced persons in the world today than at any time since World War II. Conflict, persecution, and climate change are driving millions from their homes, leaving them stateless and vulnerable. BJ has been researching ways for us as a community to respond to this crisis. Through a partnership with HIAS and emerging relationships with other organizations, we are educating our community about this issue and developing opportunities to volunteer, advocate, and raise our collective Jewish voice.
Join us as we continue our momentum and build on our successful events and coalition building. To get involved in the BJ Refugee & Immigration Committee, please contact co-chairs Elaine Klein, Sandy Cheiten, and Susan Thal.