H-CAN General Meeting

This summer, the general meeting of the Havertown-Area Community Action Network (H-CAN) will focus on immigration issues. The main speaker at the meeting will be Cathryn Miller-Wilson, executive director of HIAS. Miller-Wilson will discuss local, national and international immigration issues, as well as how current legislation is impacting immigrants and what we can do to help. If time permits, there will also be a brief training session for immigrants and activists. The meeting is open to the public.

For more information, contact Madeleine Shusterman.

Vigil for Detained Immigrant Jonatan Palacios Draws Crowd to Haverford Station

by Victoria Alfred-Levow

Last Thursday, at a vigil for detained immigrant Jonatan Palacios, speakers addressed a crowd of about 275 protesters at the Haverford Train Station.

Residents of Haverford and beyond applauded speakers at the vigil.

Residents of Haverford and beyond applauded speakers at the vigil.

“We stand united in the belief that these kinds of policies that led to Jonatan’s arrest rip apart the fabric of our community,” said Amanda Levinson, a leader of the Havertown-Area Community Action Network (H-CAN), which organized the vigil. [Read more…]

Vigil to Reunite Jonatan and Lillie

On the morning of May 11, Jonatan Palacios was arrested by ICE agents in front of his Haverford apartment. Originally from Honduras, one of the most violent and dangerous countries in the Western Hemisphere, Jonatan came to the U.S. as an unaccompanied minor when he was 16 years old. He is a valued member of the community, a loving husband, and a straight-A student at Delaware Community College who was ripped from his family and life months after he had begun the process of becoming a legal citizen in the United States.

Please join us to show solidarity, support, and prayer for Jonaton and his wife, Lillie, who was with him when he was taken away. This type of senseless targeting of innocent people is happening in communities like ours across the country. Help us send a message that it will not be tolerated in our community.

NOTE: Please meet at the Sharpe Park and Bird Sanctuary at 405 Montgomery Ave, Haverford, PA 19041; vigil will start at 5:15 across the street at the SEPTA Parking Lot on Cheswold Rd in Haverford.

Please wear blue, Jonaton’s favorite color, and bring signs with messages of support. All are welcome.

Come Hear the Remarkable Story of Lower Merion Senior, Liliana Velásquez

Refreshments at 6:30 pm, reading and discussion at 7:00 pm
Dreams and Nightmares / Sueños y Pesadillas is a memoir by teenager Liliana Velásquez, who at fourteen years old fled horrific violence and poverty in Guatemala and headed out alone for the United States. On her trip through Mexico she was robbed by narcos, rode the boxcars of La Bestia, and organized thirty of her fellow Central American bus passengers to convince the Federales who had arrested them to allow them to continue on their way. Finally, she made it to the US border, and headed out across the Sonoran Desert, where she encountered death and was caught by US Immigration. After four months in a detention center, she was placed in foster care while the courts decided whether to deport her. She spent a year in a horrendous foster situation and eventually landed on her feet with a family that loves and protects her. After having to recount her story of abuse several times, the judge determined it was too dangerous for her to return home and finally granted her a green card. She is now in high school, while she works to support her family back home and makes plans to go on to nursing school.

[Read more…]

There Is No Such Thing as Sanctuary

As of October 2015, sanctuary status was claimed by 326 counties, 32 cities and four states, according to Philippe Weisz, managing attorney of HIAS Pennsylvania. Despite these numbers, Weisz explained that there is actually no such legal entity as “sanctuary,” since the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operates freely. Weisz spoke during the inaugural session of HIAS Pennsylvania’s education series Welcoming the Stranger: Considering Immigration and Refugee Issues from a Jewish Perspective. The series provides background into American law and policy on these issues, as well as teachings on Jewish values. [Read more…]

Jews From Islamic Lands Speak on Muslim Immigration

The president’s travel ban for people from seven Muslim countries (now temporarily suspended by federal judges) has provoked outcries from the liberal community in the United States. Rallies and other acts of dissent have sprung up in most major cities. I last wrote about the response to the travel ban in the general Jewish community. I now seek to learn more from Jews who have lived in Muslim countries. [Read more…]

Anti-Trump Rallies

Protest Poster: "First they came for ..."

Protest Poster: “First they came for …”

Editor’s Note – Events are moving quickly. This initial story will be expanded on over time.

At Philadelphia International Airport and locations throughout the U.S., on Saturday and Sunday thousands of protestors demonstrated against President Trump’s ban on immigrants. There were frequent developments in Washington and the rest of the country as well.

 

Time Line, in Reverse Order

 

Tuesday, January 31st

Tuesday, 8 pm: Trump scheduled to announce his pick for the Supreme Court. This justice could be the crucial vote that decides the legality of Trump’s immigration ban.

Tuesday, Morning/Afternoon: Senate Democrats spoke at length about former Acting Attorney General Sally Yate’s courage in defying Trump. The Republican majority allowed them to speak, even though it delayed the vote to confirm Jeff Sessions as the new Attorney General. That vote is expected to take place on Wednesday, February 1.

Monday, January 30

Monday, Late evening: Yates is replaced by Dana Boente, who immediately reversed her directive. Meanwhile, Yates is still packing up her office after a 27 year career with the Justice Department.

Monday 9 pm: Attorney General Sally Yates has been fired for refusing to defend the ban. Earlier she had sent a letter to her staff explaining the she thought the ban was illegal and unjust. She wrote that the Justice Department would not defend the ban in court. [Read more…]

Faith Rally for Refugees and American Values

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.”

These are the words written on the base of the Statute of Liberty. These are the values that make America great. And today, these are the values that are threatened by Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven blacklisted countries. We must respond — and we will start today with a rally in Battery Park, New York, and a vigil at the Statue of Liberty.

Bring children; bring beautiful signs; bring musical instruments and snacks. The forecast is 45 ° and sunny, and this is a fantastic way to learn about American history and to take civic action.

This issue is not about Republicans or Democrats — it is about the soul of America. Trump’s executive action will not make Americans any safer. We all share real concerns about terrorism. That’s why our nation has rigorous screening procedures in place for all refugees. An American has never been killed in a terror attack on American soil by a person from one of the seven countries that were blacklisted today — and never by a Syrian refugee. Meanwhile, the countries from which the terrorists of 9/11 (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Lebanon) came from were excluded from the ban.

We must stand up against this un-American absurdity!

Schedule of Events
1:30 pm – Rally at Battery Park
3:00 pm – Vigil at the Statue of Liberty

For more information, email Rabbi Ari Hart, co-founder of Uri L’Tzedek: Orthodox Social Justice, or call him at 434-294-9414.

JSPAN Haggadah Supplement: The Immigration Crisis

supplementThe 2016 Jewish Social Policy Action Network Haggadah Supplement edited by Steven Sussman and Kenneth Myers is entitled “The Immigration Crisis: A Pesach Seder Reflection for 2016” and focuses on immigrants and refugees. Their plight calls to us at this season of the Jewish year when we remember that we were exiled from our homeland and enslaved in Egypt for four hundred years, and then stateless nomads for forty years in the wilderness of Sinai, at the mercy of the elements, often losing faith as danger surrounded us.

At your Seder, consider the crisis in Europe and what we can do to relieve the suffering of refugees.

The supplement is now available for download.

[Read more…]

Trump and the Duma Killers: Caught Between Two Extremes

ajcPollLike many Jews I cannot believe that a leading contender for the office of President of the United States is demonizing Mexicans, suggesting a religious test for entry into the United States and proposing a database targeting American Muslims. We have seen this picture before, and it never turns out very well for us.

While this extremist movement — the New Republic uses the term “fascist” — is unfolding in the U.S., we are witnessing a similar and even more radical phenomenon in Israel. In the aftermath of this past July’s brutal firebomb murder of three members of a Palestinian family, including an 18-month-old baby, in the West Bank village of Duma, Israeli security services have arrested nearly 100 young men, described in The Times of Israel as “far-right Orthodox extremists.” The label seems paradoxical, especially when accompanied by photos of smiling young men, each in a full-cover, knitted kippah and other traditional religious garb. The sense of shock and disbelief generated by this violent crime was compounded by the video above, released by Israeli Channel 10, of a Jewish wedding reception that included military weapons, knives and Molotov cocktails being waved in celebration of the Duma massacre.

Of course, not all West Bank settlers are terrorists, nor are all Republicans “Trumpers.” In fact, it may be tempting to dismiss these examples of American and Israeli xenophobia as mere anomalies — but they are not. Both Trump in America and Jewish terrorists in Israel are simply the logical, albeit radical, extension of long-brewing ideological developments. In the case of Trump, it is developments in the Republican Party; in the case of Israel, it is the West Bank settler movement. In both cases, it is time to recognize the insidious antecedents of these two related extremes.

The election of Barack Obama galvanized the right wing of the Republican Party. It shocked the white establishment of the Party and its white working-class supporters, who have been alienated by the many social changes that have taken place in America over the last 50 years. This animus has driven Republicans to stymie everything President Obama has stood for, from health care to gun control to immigration.

The attempt to discredit Obama’s presidency also includes the conspiracy theorists’ “Birther” movement, which is based on the claim that Obama was not born in America and, therefore, is ineligible to be president. Early in the Obama presidency, an article published on the online media website Salon documented the level of support for the Birther movement among Republicans in Congress.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump.

Donald Trump has become the poster child of this movement. He also represents extreme right-wing positions on immigration. For example, he is simply one-upping Representative Steve King (Rep., IA), who, in a 2013 interview with Newsmax, claimed that Mexican immigrants were overwhelmingly drug runners. All told, it would appear that “Trumpism” has deep roots in the extreme positions that have become mainstream in the Republican Party. Trump is, in effect, simply the “über-Republican.”

What then of the Jewish terrorist network emerging among Israeli West Bank settlers? The spiritual headquarters of religious Zionism in Israel and of the West Bank settler movement, in particular, is Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav Kook. This religious seminary was founded in 1924 by the first chief rabbi of what was then Palestine, HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook. The yeshivah’s website pays homage to the founder, noting that HaRav Kook “was the great soul of religious Zionism. He saw in it the process of redemption and the anticipation of the Mashiach (Messiah).”

This form of Zionism is not the political Zionism envisioned by Theodore Herzl and David Ben Gurion. This is a movement that understands the establishment of the State of Israel as a harbinger of the arrival of the Messiah. For some, this eventual messianic kingdom includes Jewish control of the West Bank and Gaza. Therefore, it is no anomaly that, as The Times of Israel reports, the perpetrators of the Duma massacre spray painted the walls of their victims’ home in the West Bank with the words “Yehi ha-melekh ha-mashiach,” “Long live the king messiah.” The truth is that the seeds of the Duma attack were sown many decades ago.

For a powerless people, as the Jewish people were for 2,000 years, a messianic vision offers profound hope in the midst of despair. The problem arises when powerlessness is substituted with the world’s fifth most powerful military. In that case, the march toward the messianic era becomes inexorable. Nothing may impede its progress; any action is acceptable that leads to that goal. Indeed, one West Bank settler, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira of the settlement of Yitzhar, authored a book published in 2009 known as “Torat HaMelech,” “The King’s Torah.” According to the Israeli online media outlet YNet, the book explains that “[h]urting small children makes sense if it’s clear that they’ll grow up to harm us, and in such a situation – the injury will be directed at them of all people.” The perpetrators of the Duma massacre were simply fulfilling Rabbi Shapira’s Torah.

So what is to be done? One thing history has taught us is that extremist, fascist movements always emerge insidiously. There is rarely some spontaneous mass movement. In this gradual process, we are often caught unawares. We think that these tendencies are anomalies advanced by some fringe group. These groups start by pushing boundaries, and when they receive little or no resistance, they push harder. The only way to stop them is to push back — and to push back aggressively, although non-violently. But we must be prepared to do that against any extremist, not only one with flaming orange hair, but also one wearing a kippah.