Next Year, Together

At Mimouna this year, we had a serious discussion after Shulchan Orekh/Dinner feast that began with Rabbi Ora making a connection to the afikoman and asking us questions about our relationships with our neighbors:

The word afikoman can be broken up into two Aramaic words, אפיקו מן, meaning “bring out sustenance.” According to the mystical text Sefer HaSichot, eating the afikoman draws down God’s infinite bounty into the framework of our material world.

In light of our many blessings, and the blessings of being in relationship, let’s answer these questions together:

  1. What relationships do we (individually and collectively) already have with local Muslim communities?
  2. In the coming year, what new relationships might be established?
  3. What could AARC’s Mimouna celebration look like next year?

We talked about ways we individually and as a Jewish congregation could grow our relationships with other vulnerable and targeted communities. As a beginning, here are some upcoming activities that were mentioned:

 

This Sunday, April 15, 3-7pm, Open House at the Islamic Center of Ann Arbor, sponsored by the Muslim Association of Ann Arbor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday and Saturday April 20 and 21st, Temple Beth Emeth Social Action Committee is hosting Jan Harboe, author of Train to Crystal City, a book about the secret American internment camp and incarceration of U.S. citizens of German and Japanese descent during WWII.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, April 25, the film And Then They Came for Us about the Japanese interment during WWII, at UM-Rackham Amphitheatre, 915 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor.

Sign up to be a member of the Ann Arbor Jewish Sanctuary Ann Arbor Jewish Sanctuary and Immigration Committee by going to this website, We Were Strangers, MI. 

 

Here is a really good article from the Detroit Jewish News, “Detainee Defenders,”  about the work to defend several hundred Iraqi who have been detained with deportation orders.

Helping an Asylum Seeker

In mid-February, Margo Schlanger sent a request to ReconChat, one of our congregation’s networking tools, that said in part “the fantastic folks at the National Immigrant Justice Center have gotten an Eritrean asylum seeker out of detention and seek our help to set her on her way to her sponsor. She’s been detained for over a year.” Odile Hugonot Haber and Alan Haber responded that they could help and then sent in this report on their experience.

“There was a letter from Margo Schlanger asking if someone would pick up a NIJC client, Feven, just released from the Detroit ICE Field Office, and to take her to the Greyhound bus in Ann Arbor. She needed to get to Chicago where a friend from her country would be welcoming her, and helping her on the rest of her journey. So we went to the ICE Office in Detroit where the waiting room was full of people awaiting the release of their loved one or friends.

Many children were playing, many Latino people and some people from Africa. After 45 minutes Feven was released accompanied by an officer. She had a backpack. She was petite, her hair magnificently braided, and she spoke a few words of English. We hugged. We wanted to show her a little of Detroit. So we drove through the town and Dearborn and a bit of Ann Arbor. She wanted to see everything, and feel the fresh air. We offered to get some food right away, but she was not hungry.

As we drove we learned a little bit of her story.

She spoke Tigrinya, she was from Eritrea, seeking some kind of asylum from the violence of her village area. With her husband she had flown to Italy, which had once been the colonial overlord of the area. But in Italy there were many, many immigrants and it was difficult getting a job, so they decided to come to the US. They flew to Ecuador and then traveled by bus and foot, mostly walking, through Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras and the length of Mexico until they came to the border at Texas.

At the border, the U.S. officials saw that she did not have a visa, and she was put in jail. First she and  her husband went to a jail in Texas where there were many immigrants. It was a very big jail where the food was varied and they could go outsides at times.

After some time, she was sent to a county jail in Michigan, which held immigrant detainees, and where she was fed only beans and rice and rice and beans, wore only an orange jail suit, and could never go outside. The nights were cold as the prisoners were given only thin sheets and a Cotton spread for the beds. This treatment continued for a year and two months, until she was released, thanks to many people’s good work at the legal end.

We were the first people she saw as a free person in America. Her happiness and relief was beautiful to see. She is a Christian from the Eastern Orthodox Church, and showed us her bible written in her own language, a script we had never seen before.

When we picked Feven up, she was very clean and the clothes she wore, given back to her on release, were fashionable and neat, though her tennis shoes had no laces, because they took the shoe laces away.

Her husband had been sent to a jail in Oklahoma. They were going to meet each other soon, yet  we did not know if he was going to be released. We did hope so. Fifteen months is a to be a long time for people whose major crime was to hope for a better life.

We gave her some food from the Mediterranean Market, a sweater for warmth, and shoe laces.  Her back pack was full. She emptied a yellow bag that had written “Hygiene Kit” on it from the Red Cross from Honduras. We found that she had had some medical problems in Jail.  We would have liked to know more but her English was limited and we did not want interrupt her happiness inquiring of a story now behind her, in her first day in her first hours of freedom. After a lunch, we put her on the Greyhound. We hoped the rest of her journey would be a more pleasant one.

We know she arrived well in Chicago, but haven’t heard more. It was a sweet mission. Maybe we will meet Feven and husband again some time.

Odile Hugonot Haber and Alan Haber

Hamentashen for Iraqi Detainee Families

Support for MI Iraqi Families During Deportation Crisis

During Purim week, AARC Beit Sefer and congregation members will be baking hamentashen for the families of Iraqi detainees. On March 3, the detainees’ legal team, which includes AARC members Margo Schlanger and Sam Bagenstos,  is hosting an informational dinner for the families of detainees, and we will be providing dessert. This will be our congregation’s way of fulfilling the Purim mitzvah of mishloach manot, giving gifts of tasty treats to friends and strangers.

 

Opportunities to Bake

Here is some background on the detainees’ situation from the ACLU of Michigan. In June 2017 hundreds of Iraqis in Michigan and throughout the country were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which intended to deport them immediately to Iraq, a country where many have not lived since they were young children. Most have been living in the United States for decades, but were previously ordered removed to Iraq—either for overstaying visas or for previous criminal convictions.

As a matter of policy, the United States has not deported people to Iraq because of dangerous country conditions, and because the Iraqi government has refused to issue travel documents. In March 2017, however, Iraq agreed to accept Iraqis deported by the United States back into the country, in exchange for being removed from President Trump’s travel ban list. Suddenly, any Iraqi with an open removal order was a target.

The ACLU filed a class action lawsuit in federal court to stop the deportations on the grounds that they would likely result in persecution, torture, or even death for those deported, either because they are members of minority religions or because they are Western-affiliated.

“When the clerk calls him forward, Attorney Ed Bajoka explains he has three paths to pursue in seeking release of his client, Mukhlis Murad, who’s been detained for nearly six months. Murad is a 59-year-old suburban grandfather with numerous health problems. His adult children and his sister are in the waiting room. When asked how it’s been at home without her dad there, his 23-year-old daughter, Summer, answers swiftly and directly, ‘He’s our best friend. Murad is one of several hundred Iraqi-born U.S. residents now facing detention and deportation. Many are married to U.S. citizens. Most speak English. At least half are Chaldean and speak Aramaic — not necessarily Arabic. They are parents and grandparents, business owners, and taxpayers. Many are churchgoing Catholics.” (From the ThinkProgress article “Trump’s travel ban puts a religious minority he promised to protect in the cross hairs.”)

Hamama legal team, December 2017

In June 2017 Judge Mark Goldsmith ordered a temporary stay of deportation for Iraqis in Michigan. In July 2017 Judge Goldsmith granted an expanded preliminary injunction barring deportation of Iraqis throughout the country while they access the immigration court system, giving them time to file motions to reopen their immigration cases based on the changed country conditions or legal developments in the decades since their cases were decided.

The legal team went to court in December and asked Judge Goldsmith to order the release of these Iraqi Nationals absent a showing that any of them are a flight risk, danger to society, or face an imminent removal to Iraq. Judge Goldsmith then ordered that the government must provide bond hearings for the detained Iraqi nationals and must show by clear and convincing evidence that the detainee is a danger or a flight risk and if no bond hearing is provided, the individual must be released.

Most of the bond hearings have been completed. There have been 182 bond hearings. 119 have been granted, but 63 have been denied. However, there also a good number who were granted bond hearings, but cannot afford the bond amount.

In summary, progress has been made with reuniting many families, but a big chunk of families are still separated from their loved ones. Getting released on bond is not the end of the battle. Release just allows the individuals to work and be with their families while their individual immigration process continues.

The legal team in Hamama v. Adducci is ACLU of Michigan Attorneys Miriam Aukerman, Bonsitu Kitaba-Gaviglio, and Michael J. Steinberg; Legal Fellow Juan Caballero; National ACLU attorneys Lee Gelernt, Judy Rabinowitz, and Anand Balakrishnan; ACLU of Michigan Cooperating Attorneys Margo Schlanger and Sam Bagenstos of U-M Law School; Kimberly Scott and Wendy Richards of Miller Canfield; co-counsel Nadine Yousif and Nora Youkhana of CODE Legal Aid; Susan Reed of the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center; and William Swor.

MCIRR Loan Program for Immigrant Filing Fees

Thank you for quick action, straight-forward help

MCIRR is a membership organization made up of more than forty nonprofit and faith groups committed to building capacity within Michigan’s advocacy community, supporting immigrant rights, and promoting a more positive and inclusive atmosphere for immigrants and refugees. See MCIRR.org for more details

 

The Michigan Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (MCIRR) sends its thanks, in a letter from the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center’s director, Susan Reed.  Susan writes:

When Attorney General Sessions announced the end of DACA on September 5, 2017, he gave a one month window for many with DACA to renew.  Many of our members’ first thought was: how will those eligible to renew be able to raise the $495 fee in time?  Enter our good friends (and perhaps also yours), University of Michigan Law School Professors Margo Schlanger and Sam Bagenstos.  Margo and Sam wanted to know how to support those facing this cost and we told them about the fee bank.  They made a generous gift and also shared the giving opportunity with members of the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation, Temple Beth Emeth, and others in the University of Michigan community.  The outpouring of generosity was amazing, and in a few days, we had received more than $18,000 for our little loan fund.  Checks are still finding their way to us. This meant that we were able to assure our advocacy community that NO ONE in Michigan needed to miss the DACA renewal deadline for lack of the fee.  At the same time, some major national funds providing grants emerged.  So, ultimately, we only needed to make four loans for DACA renewal because most people in need got national grants.  In one case, an applicant had been rejected by a grant fund because she needed assistance to replace her DACA work permit rather than renew it and she didn’t meet their parameters, but she met ours and she was extremely grateful to have access to at least another year with DACA!

The fee bank used to be an occasional solution to an ever-present problem. In 2010, with a very small gift of $2,000 from the Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters and support from pro bono banking lawyers at the Honigman law firm (recruited by Michigan Community Resources) we launched our fee bank. Because the filing fee for a green card can be as much as $2070, that initial $2,000, plus a few other small gifts we were able to add, had only become about six loans.  But, every loan was repaid by our clients on time or well in advance of the repayment schedule and the loan program had been extremely helpful to those who had been able to access the funds.  (We ask borrowers to pay $10 per month until 90 days after the “work permit” arrives and $40 per month after that time.)  Each time we had enough money back in the fund, we let our members know that a new loan was potentially available and the loan was snapped up.  Blue Ox Credit Union, based in Battle Creek services the loans at no cost and there is no interest.

Now, you have made the fee bank loan program robust.  We have already been told that two applications are on the way for clients who need filing fee loans for immigration benefits other than DACA.  Because we make loans rather than grants, the transformation made by your generosity will make this resource last forever!

Thank you for your rush to generosity.  You are truly repairing our world.

Yom Kippur Workshops 2017

It’s our Yom Kippur tradition at AARC to have several afternoon sessions for study, meditation, and discussion. This year, there will be three sessions; two from about 2:15 to 3:30 pm, and one from 3:45 to 5 pm.

 

 

Barbara Boyk Rust

Meditation and Sacred Chant for the Quiet of the Day
led by Barbara Boyk Rust
2:15pm

One of the blessings of Yom Kippur’s fast is the cleansing, purifying and opening we experience as we abstain from food and other routines.   Giving ourselves over to a day of prayer and reflection in community affords us a unique opportunity to deepen our spiritual contact.  Through sacred Hebrew chant and meditation this time together will support our entering a state of deep meditative consciousness to quiet our mind that we might hear the still small voice within and receive guidance for the year that is beginning.

 

 

Margo Schlanger

American Immigration
hachnasat orchim (welcoming the stranger)
a discussion led by Margo Schlanger
2:15pm

Margo Schlanger will facilitate a discussion on American immigration enforcement and the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim (welcoming the stranger). Margo is a member of AARC and a law professor whose recent work has focused on challenging the Trump Administration’s ramped-up immigration enforcement; she is counsel in federal cases challenging the administration’s “Muslim ban” executive order and its effort to deport hundreds of Detroit-area Iraqi nationals who have been here for decades.

 

Danny Steinmetz

 Jewish burial and mourning practices
a workshop led by Danny Steinmetz
3:45pm

Over several millenia, Jews have developed distinctive practices for dealing with death.  Traditionally, Jews do not leave the deceased unattended before burial, and use simple shrouds and coffins. After burial the focus shifts to the mourners and their obligations to console and care for mourners. The presentation will cover some of these practices (as well as their origin and rationale) and consider implications for a Reconstructionist community. The presentation will be by Danny Steinmetz is an ex-rabbinical student and a former chair of the AARC board. 

 

What would Ruth deserve?

A woman harvests barley.

by Margo Schlanger

We read Megillat Ruth every year for Shavuot, which starts this year in the evening of May 30. Ruth was an illegal immigrant to Judah. Inspired by her kindness and her boldness, I’ve written a piece for the Tablet — it’s here — about Ruth, loving-kindness, chutzpah, and illegal immigration.  I hope you’ll read it and post any thoughts you have here.

Pirke Avot tells us:

עַל שְׁלֹשָׁה דְּבָרִים הָעוֹלָם עוֹמֶד: עַל הַתּוֹרָה, וְעַל הַעֲבוֹדָה וְעַל גְּמִילוּת חֲסָדִים
Al shlosha d’varim ha’olam omed: al haTorah, v’al ha’avoda v’al g’milut chasadim.
The world is sustained by three things: Torah, worship, and loving kindness.

I hope we can do as well as Boaz and Bethlehem and match the kindness and chutzpah of Ruth and of her modern-day brothers and sisters with our own.

What can we do?

  • Support WICIR, the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights: Like them on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/WICIR/) and you’ll see posts for rallies, information sessions, and actions that support immigrant families.
  • Email Ruth Kraut, ruthkraut@gmail.com, if you want to join the Ann Arbor Jewish Sanctuary planning group. For information on Sanctuary Synagogues, see http://www.truah.org/campaign/mikdash-the-jewish-sanctuary-movement/ .
  • If you speak another language well—especially Spanish, Arabic, or French—there are opportunities to do interpretation. Ask the folks at WICIR about how you can help.
  • Give time or money to MIRC, the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, http://michiganimmigrant.org/. They train people to do Know Your Rights sessions and their “Let’s Do More” campaign is working to raise money for an additional staff attorney to meet the dramatically increased need since President Trump was sworn in.
  • If you see or hear ethnic or racial epithets or bias, speak up! Go over in your mind in advance what you would say/do. Here are the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Six Steps to Speaking Up Against Everyday Bigotry.

April AARC Mail Call!

by Dave Nelson

As your Board secretary, I do much, much more than just take notes at monthly Board Meetings and eventually revise these and post them where you can see. I also periodically pick up our mail at the JCC offices. Most of it is bills, checks, shady offers to re-asphalt our parking lot, legitimate offers to re-asphalt our parking lot, office supply catalogues, and brief form letters from well-meaning crackpots inviting us to consider the religious Grand Unification Theories they’ve posted online.

But we also get a few really nice letters from really nice people who really appreciate the little slice of diversity we bring to Washtenaw County. Below are two of these from April.

First up, we got a really nice thank-you note from Jewish Family Services, for our Purim donations, which help JFS “set up warm and welcoming new homes for incoming refugees.”

If we are a generation or two removed from a refugee/immigrant experience, it can easily seem like ancient history to our kids. I’m always really pleased that the Hav keeps this portion of the American experience in front of our eyes, so that “my dad’s dad came here from Ukraine at seven-years-old with a Detroit address on a note pined to his jacket” doesn’t become as distant and abstract as “because of what the Lord did to us when we were slaves in Egypt.” We can continue to support the JFS Refugee Resettlement Program by buying tickets (click on the picture) to the June 11 “Festival of Lights” concert.

The other nice letter from April came from the Chelsea Ministerial Association.  I urge you to give it a read; I doubt I can do it justice in summary:

They wrote this thinking of Micah 6:8, but when I read it I immediately was reminded of Malachi 3:18, which is something like:

“And you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve G_d and those who do not.”