by Suzanne Pollak
Last week's review by the U.S. Supreme Court of Arizona's immigration law sparked heated discussions among Jews, many of whose parents and grandparents weren't born in this country.
One group, Jews United For Justice, did more than just talk. Clad in light-blue T-shirts that read "Think Jewishly Act Locally," they took to the steps of the Supreme Court and also participated in a week of activities in support of immigrants.
"I think a lot of Jewish people are sympathetic to it. The immigration system offered us the opportunities," said Monica Kamen, community organizer and AVODAH corps member with JUFJ. Now, she said, the system "is keeping them [immigrants] from opportunities."
Members of her organization joined a Night of Jewish Solidarity outside the Supreme Court April 24, participated with Casa de Maryland the following day for a March Together Against Hate and on Friday were part of a press conference entitled Secure Communities, End it, Don't Mend it!
Tomorrow, JUFJ will deliver handwritten letters to the D.C. city council in support of the Immigration Detainer Compliance Amendment Act of 2011, which, in part, asks the council to leave immigration issues to the federal government.
"We don't want local police doing what the federal government should do," Kamen noted.
Her group has heard firsthand stories of immigrants who were victims of domestic violence and theft or were witnesses to crimes but were scared to talk to the police for fear of being deported.
JUFJ held its 11th-annual labor seder March 25, which was entitled Immigrant Roots, Immigrant Rights. They created a Haggadah, that while still in keeping with Passover, related much of the traditions and rituals to current-day immigration.
For instance, Kamen said, "Our first cup of wine was for the courage it takes to leave your home country."
They also listed "the 10 plagues of modern immigration," which included poor access to education, wage theft, fear of law enforcement, racism and racial profiling and separation of families.
The Haggadah answered the question, Why a Labor Seder, by explaining, "We take note that this struggle for human freedom did not end with that Exodus. We come together to recognize that there are people in our midst who struggle every day for dignity and freedom in their work and in their lives as a whole."
At the end of the seder, many of the 300 seder participants wrote letters calling for more immigration-friendly laws. These are the letters that will be delivered to the D.C. council May 4.
JUFJ, as explained on its web site, "provides Jews with an opportunity to weave together Judaism and activism and creates a community in which to explore and strengthen commitments to both."