This past Tuesday the Jewish community observed Tisha B’av, a major day of communal mourning on the Jewish calendar, which commemorates the destruction of the First and Second ancient Temples in Jerusalem. A central ritual of the Tisha B’av is the recitation of the Book of Lamentations which includes not only dirges but also descriptions of the siege of Jerusalem. The text captures the horror of the siege: the starving of children, the raping of women and defiling of priests.
Refugees that JSS is settling and the millions who are seeking refugee around the world could tragically write a contemporary Book of Lamentations to describe the horrors they have witnessed. Our staff does not know the details of the atrocities that our newly arriving families have witnessed but we know there are victims of violence and persecution that have led them to flee across the world for safety. We hear their wailing when we listen to the chanting of the Book of Lamentations.
However, the wailing has not reached our government in Washington. On Wednesday, the day after Tisha B’av, Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue introduced the “Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy” (RAISE) Act, and President Trump has embraced the Bill. This bill would cut legal immigration to the United States in half within a decade and by 41% in the first year. These reductions would primarily be achieved by curtailing the ability of American citizens and permanent residents to bring family into the country. If passed the legislation would also permanently cap refugee admissions at 50,000.
The Haftarah this Shabbat says, “Raise your voice with power… Raise it, have no fear…” (Isaiah 40:9). Whether or not we will attend synagogue and hear these words read let us each take them to heart and use our voices to strongly oppose the RAISE Act.
We encourge you to take action TODAY and urge your Members of Congress to reject this anti-family and anti-refugee legislation and to read HIAS’s, the Jewish refugee resettlement agency, opposition to the bill.
All of these will take place in the JSS conference room and snacks will be provided.
RSVP to Becca
TELL CONGRESS: Stand Up for Refugee Protection & Resettlement and
Sample Script: “I’m your constituent from [CITY/TOWN], and I support refugee resettlement and strongly oppose President Trump’s refugee and Muslim ban executive order. I urge you to do everything in your power to see that the administration resettle at least 75,000 refugees in 2018 and keeps the DACA* program intact. I call on you to protect refugee assistance and resettlement against proposed budget cuts; increase funding for trafficking survivors; and reduce funding for detention, deportation, and border militarization, which only tear families and communities apart. My community welcomes refugees and immigrants, and I urge you to reflect the best of our American values of compassion and welcome.”* DACA stands for “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” DACA allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.
For all of us who care about refugees and the United States refugee program, the Torah portion we read this Shabbat, Mattot-Maasei, is particularly compelling. We read about the requirement God gives the Israelites to set up cities of refuge when they enter the land of Israel. They are told that they must set up six cities where anyone who has accidentally killed someone could find safety from the “blood avenger” who seeks to kill him. These cities are not just for Israelites: “These six cities shall be a refuge for the children of Israel and for the proselyte and resident among them, so that anyone who unintentionally kills a person can flee there” (Num. 35:15).
At the end of a week when the courts have gone back and forth about which refugees, immigrants, and visitors from six majority Muslim countries can enter into our country, it is striking that Jewish tradition is so clear that we need a place for people under attack to find safety – no matter their faith or nationality.
Not only does Torah teach that nation-building must include spaces of refuge, but the classical rabbis argue that the path to the cities of refuge must be unobstructed to avoid delaying anyone who is fleeing to the city. As Rambam says in Mishneh Torah, “The court is obligated to straighten the roads to the cities of refuge, to repair them, and to broaden them. They must remove all impediments and obstacles … so as not to delay one who is fleeing [to a city of refuge].”
JSS Fundraiser was a huge success!!!
Thank you to everyone who supported Just Desserts. We raised over $12,000 In addition to beautiful donated space by AMC theater (Sundance), desserts from community establishments specializing in sweet treats, we enjoyed gorgeous floral displays from The Florettes and there was live music performed by David Adler of local bands The Gomers and Steely Dane, volunteer speakers, and a local employer and a short video. Plus, Leora Saposnik, Laurie Nagus and all of our wonderful volunteers were total rock stars!
If you were unable to join us please consider making a donation to our program today. It is for a good cause.
If you would like contact information for any of the vendors who supported our programs, please call or email us. We would be happy to share the information.
Earlier this week on World Refugee Day, June 20, JSS welcomed a new refugee family to Madison. One of our obligations as a resettlement agency is to provide a culturally appropriate meal upon arrival. The family, who are Iraqi but has been living in Turkey for 2.5 years since fleeing Iraq in 2014, has a friend in Madison. Our caseworkers connected with this friend as they prepared for the family’s arrival. One of our obligations at JSS is to have a culturally appropriate “proper meal” prepared upon arrival. But the friend said that the family had requested that the “proper meal” wait until their second day here because it would be late and they really missed pizza. So pizza it was. As the family settled into their new home in the United State, several pizzas were delivered. And we learned once again we often have much more in common with these newly arriving families than we would have imagined.
On June 12 a second Federal Appeals Court ruled against President Trump’s revised travel ban. The Supreme Court will now decide whether to hear the case. For now, the Executive Order halting refugees from entering the United States and targeting travelers from six majority Muslim countries has been stayed. Because of this and the Omnibus Bill that continued funding for the refugee programs until the end of the fiscal year, JSS expects to meet its original goal of resettling 50 people this fiscal year.
As I looked out the taxi window and saw the Welcome to New York City sign, I had a clear sense of my purpose the next day. I was bringing to the halls of power the message of the refugees we were settling, the DACA students we have assisted and the many immigrants who have been clients of JSS. How profound that my grandparents arrived in this city and saw some version of the welcome sign as refugees themselves. I was here now because they were welcomed then.
- Call 1-844-4STAND5 (1-844-478-2635) during this week, and we’ll connect you directly to your representative and senators. And then email Rabbi Renee Bauer at JSS to let her know you made the call.
- Text “STAND” to 313131 to receive a reminder about the campaign.
- Encourage your family, friends and co-workers from around the country to do the same.
- To learn more, see http://www.standwithrefugees.us/ or email StandWithRefugees@wr.org
“It is not up to you to complete the task but neither are you free to desist from it” (Pirke Avot 2:21).
This has been a week of swirling national news that moves so quickly and makes change seems beyond our control. Despite the changing headlines the JSS refugee resettlement team continues to stay focused on the project of welcoming new families to our community while advocating for our country to keep our borders open. We write you this update as an antidote to the helplessness that can arise from the current events of the day.
JSS Resettlement Team and Volunteers and Family Help to Resettle
(Thank you all all of the participants at our Volunteer Orientation. Here are some of them.)
- Volunteer orientations: We have two volunteer orientations for current and interested volunteers. The first was today and we had over twenty volunteers. The second is on Monday, April 24th at the Sequoya Library, 5:30pm-7:30pm. Please email Becca Schwartz if you are interested.
- Donate to the newly arrived families. See this link for current needs: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090445aca92aabfb6-jssrefugeeasylee.You can also use this link to donate toward helping pay two months of rent for each family. The JSS team and board have decided that we want to raise these funds to help the families a bit longer while they are acclimated. The donations that we receive from the community will help us to reach our goals.
- Advocate for Refugees by calling your senators and representatives to show your support for the federal refugee program. See details here “How to Stand Up and Fight Back for Refugees”.
- March for Refugees: May 1st is International Worker’s Day which is an historic day to respect the contributions of workers, organize in support of workers’ rights, and demonstrate solidarity with immigrants. This May 1st, there are marches and rallies around the country to resist President Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, and anti-Muslim policies. Locally there are actions in Madison and Milwaukee:
- MADISON MAY DAY RALLY: Day Without Immigrants and Refugees Monday, May 1 at Brittingham Park 11:00 am.
- STATEWIDE RALLY: Day without Latinos, Immigrants & Refugees. Monday, May 1, 12:00-3:00 PM in Milwaukee. Please go to https://www.facebook.com/VocesdelaFronteraWI/ for details