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Our Day in Arizona

01/18/2019 09:45:53 AM

Jan18

Rav Yosef Kanefsky

Dear Friends:

Please join me in thanking our friends who represented us so well in Phoenix on Wednesday (their names are below). Together we greeted dozens of families who had just been released from up to 3 weeks of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detention. In detention, they slept on cold concrete floors while awaiting word of what would happen to them next, after trekking for weeks through Central America and Mexico. We were honored to have the opportunity to serve them their first hot meal in many weeks, to help them to shower for the first time in who knows how long, and to present them with fresh clothing and new shoes.

The next step for these families is to join their relatives already in the U.S., while they await their asylum hearings. Until recently, ICE had been simply releasing these families onto the Phoenix streets, or depositing them at Greyhound terminals. Over the past couple of months, however, they have been coordinating with local churches who provide a day (or three) of food and comfort, while coordinating travel to relatives in one corner or another of the United States. On Wednesday, we volunteered at one of these churches (whose identities cannot be revealed for the security of the church and its leadership).

I have invited the members of the BDJ group to submit reflections in the coming week. Meanwhile I will begin with a brief reflection of my own.

It was of course the children who stole our hearts right away. A few were teenagers, but most were younger than that, some as young as 4 or 5. Some accompanied by two parents, some by just a mother or a father. How completely disoriented they must be. How confused they must be about where they are, and where they are going. As they step off the windowless Homeland Security bus into the church parking lot where they are greeted by smiling strangers, they cling to their parents' arms. Minutes later, as they are seated in the church's multi-purpose room and served hot lunch and cold drinks, they return the gaze of the volunteers with a mix of shyness, uncertainty, and hope. And we wonder: what will they remember of this day? Perhaps nothing. Or perhaps they will remember it as the day on which their faith in the goodness of people - of strangers - was reaffirmed.

So many things are complicated: Immigration policy and law, the balancing of compassion for the "other" with the obligation to one's own, the surreal political moment we are all currently living through. But there are still many things that are not complicated: love for a child who is in distress, empathy with a parent who wants something better - something decent - for his or her child, a sense of responsibility for people who are hungry, cold, tired. We have ourselves been wanderers on more historical occasions than we can count. Wandering is in fact our founding story. We cannot and will not betray the legacy we have inherited.

Thank you to my fellow travelers: Kayla Ablin, Lisa Ablin, Mordechai Fishman, Jenny Gelb, Josh Kahn, Marian Merritt, Shanee Michaelson, Dorit Naftalin, Nikki Sieger, Monica Sufar, Hana Wexler, and our Shalhevet Boiling Point correspondent Sam Rubanowitz.

Thank you to the many, many people who contributed clothing and hygiene items, and who financially supported this trip.

Thank you to our old friend Rav Shmuly Yanklowitz for making it all possible.

May it Be Your Will God and the God of our Fathers, that You lead these families in peace, direct their steps in peace, guide them in peace, and enable them to reach their destinations in life, joy, and peace.

If are interested in supporting the work on the ground, you can donate items through the Amazon registry or funds to Uri L'Tzedek.  

Tue, July 23 2019 20 Tammuz 5779