Jewish Community Involved in Immigration Rally

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Congregants of Old York Road Temple-Beth Am joined synagogue president Mark Kogan (left) and Rabbi Shoshanah Tornberg (second from left) at the protest.

On Saturday afternoon at Logan Circle, a handful of young children seeking reprieve from the blistering heat clustered around a sprinkler. They ran and screamed and jumped on steps, tuning out the chanting around them.

The children were not unattended. They were watched closely by parents and grandparents, who periodically looked up to nod along with a speaker or flash a sign. Elisabeth Bass, 60, pointed out her granddaughter.

“Ella has been to eight protests,” Bass said. “She’s two-and-a-half years old.”


About 3,000 people attended Philadelphia’s version of Saturday’s nationwide Families Belong Together protest, a rally condemning the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents along the border with Mexico. Children are being kept in cages in detention centers, an image that resonated with some of the Jewish protesters at Logan Circle.

“Just like there was no Jewish problem in Germany, Trump has created this idea that there is an immigrant problem that helps support white supremacy and other very dangerous ideologies” Bass said.

Amber Clifton, who is the holding the sign on the right, feels a personal tie to the Trump administration’s immigration policy.

Rabbi Shoshanah Tornberg of Old York Road Temple-Beth Am attended the protest wielding a sign that read: ‘Another Jew & Feminist For Justice.’ She was flanked by about 25 members of her congregation, including synagogue president Mark Kogan.

“It’s very clear to me and to lots of members of our congregation that this a pressing moral issue. Tradition calls us to respond to injustice — not to mention our history,” Tornberg said. “This is the Jewish act.”

Tornberg noted that some in her congregation feel differently about the policy. She’s tried to bridge the gap through Torah. On Friday she read the Balaak Torah portion about Balaam, a prophet who is tasked by Balaak, the King of Moab, to curse the Jews. But Balaak sees the humanity in the Jewish people and refuses.

Balaak “perfects his ability to see the other as equal, as in need, just like themselves,” Tornberg said. “We were strangers in Egypt. What does it mean to take seriously the values of Torah? … This is what [being] a Jew is about in the course of history.”

“There are individuals in our congregation, just as there are people throughout the divinites, that believe that this is potentially a political issue,” Kogan said. “This is an issue of humanity.”

Families Belong Together protests were held across the U.S., from Los Angeles to Boston. Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the hit musical Hamilton, sung a lullaby to protesters in Washington, D.C.

President Trump tweeted several times Saturday but did not address the protests directly, instead opting to double down on his immigration philosophy.

“When people come into our Country illegally, we must IMMEDIATELY escort them back out without going through years of legal maneuvering. Our laws are the dumbest anywhere in the world. Republicans want Strong Borders and no Crime. Dems want Open Borders and are weak on Crime!,” Trump wrote in a tweet.

Little children were watched closely by parents.

It’s that kind of rhetoric that struck a chord with those at Logan Circle. Protesters engaged in call-and-response with organizers in reference to Immigration and Customs Enforcement:

“Abolish”

“ICE!”

Others let their signs get their feelings across.

When Sally Chuquimia, 29, told her 6-year-old son Landon Rivera about the children being held at the border, he said, “They need superheroes.” On Saturday, he donned a black Batman T-shirt and a yellow cape, raising a sign that read, “I’m here to save children,” proudly above his head.

Amber Clifton, 31, stood on the outskirts of the protest with a sign: “It was also legal when the Nazis detained my uncle & put my opa in a concentration camp.”

A historian from Boston, Clifton said the Trump administration’s immigration policy feels personal. During World War II, her family, who is not Jewish, was part of the Dutch resistance. When the Nazis went door to door in the Netherlands looking to round up Jews, Clifton said her family would pose as living in houses actually occupied by Jewish people. Her uncle was repeatedly interrogated by Nazis and eventually committed suicide, and her grandfather survived a concentration camp.

She discussed the government’s policy at the Mexican border.

“The trauma that we’re inflicting on children right now is going to carry through generations,” Clifton said.

Protestors wield signs.

As the protest wound to a close, a single counter protester pushed his way near the front. Wearing a black hat, a black T-shirt and gray shorts, he was pelted with chants of “Shame! Shame! Shame!” He was escorted away from the protest, but not before a protester snatched the cap off his head. Another returned it to him.

Some Philadelphians took their protest to a local ICE facility. Rabbi Arthur Waskow, 85, one of the founders of the Jewish Renewal movement, was detained after temporarily blocking access to the ICE office. Staring down police officers, he spoke into a microphone

“Criminals are living in the White House who would tear away even nursing children from their mother’s breast. You are citizens as well as police officers. We invite you, we urge you, we beg you, we implore you as citizens to be aware of the criminals that are wrecking the decent lives of decent families. If you need to arrest us, so be it. But remember who the real criminals are,” Waskow said.

And with that, he was placed in zip-tie cuffs. The arresting officer pulled Waskow’s walker around the cuffs, placed it in his hands and guided him to the back of a police van.

The Philadelphia Police Department did not respond to immediate request for comment.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Lest we forget: When there was a wave of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe in the early 20th century, each had to have a recipient sponsor who was held liable if their ward did anything out of line. The immigrants in that era assimilated (the vast majority opting to dress like mainstream citizens, whether male or female). Many fought in World Wat I, gaining citizenship. They did not demand special laws nor did they perform acts of terrorism. Remember these as you advocate unfiltered immigration

  2. When my grandparents arrived, they had to have sponsorship and a means of support in their new home. The sponsor would be prosecuted if their newcomer broke the law. The same should apply now.

  3. Weg Mit Uns.

    These Jews For Jihad rallied together with CAIR – The Council on American Islamic Relations a Saudi-funded front group for Hamas. CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in The Holy Land Foundation Hamas funding trial.

  4. I wonder if those “Jews” have the door to their homes permanently open and no lock to prevent anyone from settling in their bedroom. “Jews” in the mainly anti- Semitic Democratic party! I left it 12, 13 years ago for that exact reason. I know it did not improve since.

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