We are excited to share with you that Bet Ha’am’s Board of Trustees has approved the Tikkun Olam Council’s recommendation that we establish “Immigration” as our focus issue for the congregation’s social justice work over the coming year.
Thank you to all those who participated in our recent survey of issues. In the 149 individual responses we gathered, immigration came out at the top, both in counted votes and in our ranked choice evaluation process. Congratulations to Gale Kurtz who won the drawing for a $25 gift certificate to BuoyLocal and a $25 gift certificate to the charity of her choice.
Why does immigration matter to Bet Ha’am?
Jewish tradition and Reform Jewish principles are straightforward about the treatment of immigrants. The Torah commands us, “When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. The stranger who sojourn with you shall be to as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33-34). This principle, one of compassion for outsiders among us, is the most repeated commandment in Torah, appearing 36 times in total. Our tradition is keenly aware that being a stranger puts an individual at greater risk, so as a Jewish community, we have an obligation to extend an outstretched arm to those who are new in our community, just as God extended a mighty and outstretched arm to redeem us from bondage in Egypt. Our Passover Haggadah, informed by the Mishnah, tells us that in every generation, each person is obligated to see oneself as having personally been redeemed from Egypt. Reform Judaism demands that we approach the plight of immigrants from a place of empathy, remembering our collective narrative of immigration, both as Jews and as Americans.
What exactly do we hope to accomplish?
Immigration is a broad category, and the specifics of how we proceed will be determined by the volunteers involved. Those volunteers will be members of the Council as well as others from the congregation. Some initial thoughts from the Tikkun Olam Council:
- Partnering with the local immigrant community to support them. The Council plans to talk to a broad range of leaders in the immigrant community over the next six weeks to identify current unmet needs and ask for their thoughts about how we might most effectively partner with the community.
- Creating personal connections in our communities.
- Advocating politically on issues and being responsive to legislation that impacts immigration policy, with some urgency around the upcoming DACA decisions.
- Understanding the Jewish context for a pro-immigration stance, and how our Jewish values inform the way we act on this issue.
- Educating ourselves about attitudes towards immigration and exploring how we can help change negativity directed towards immigrants in our society.
Is this the only issue Bet Ha’am will be working on this year?
The Tikkun Olam Council and the Board are committed to continuing to provide support for initiatives currently underway such as Family Promise, as well as other issues as they arise. Our hope is that having a single focus issue will allow us to maximize the impact of our collective efforts and, engage in some deeper learning.As written in the Council’s charge, we will evaluate the selection of this issue in one year’s time to determine if this is still where we’d like to direct our time and attention.
How can you get involved now?
Volunteer to be a part of the team! Let us know what your interests and ideas are, and how you’d like to help by emailing the council at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sign up to be notified of specific opportunities as they arise through our Action Alert Network (email us at email@example.com to be added)).
Thank you very much! We are excited to be ready to engage in this important work, and looking forward to what we can accomplish together.
Rabbi Jared Saks and Lauren Dietlin, Tikkun Olam Council Chair