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.

The Call of the Shofar: Rena Basch on Activism

Rena and Jeff Basch at our 2017 Annual BBQ. Photo by Stephanie Rowden

by Rena Basch, from her dvar on Rosh Hashana

Often people hear a distinct, sharp call to action. Something happens; something shocking or traumatic happens to you, your family, your community, or your nation. We hear these calls to action. They’re often loud and clear. Yet, we struggle with what actions to take. We hear the call. But then what?

There are also softer, more subtle calls to action. You’ve heard something over and over again, but then one day, the same words sound different. Something crystallizes in your head. “Aha,” you say. You hear the call.

For me, current events of 5777 provided an unrelenting cacophony. Deafening calls to action. I sifted through the noise, adjusted priorities, and chose a path for tikkun olam. I’m fortunate and grateful for being able to do this: hear the call–consider, contemplate, plan–then act. I have learned how to do this from all of you. Our community sounded the shofar, then taught me how to hear it. You’ve showed me how I can be useful, can help change the world.

Here are just a few examples:

A pair of our founders, my friends Aura and Aaron Ahuvia, extend an invitation to me–a call to an unaffiliated, uninvolved Jew: Come to our Reconstructionist Havurah. I’m like, “What’s a Reconstructionist Havurah? Sounds like a cult.” They took the time to explain, and Aha! I’m in. This is Judaism to me.

Over the years, these subtle calls to action continued from our community members. A very young Sarah Kurz–I will always remember her empathy. Back when the Hav was still meeting in the basement of a church near the law quad. A special aunt of mine had died. I’m crying during services and Sarah comforts me. I hear the call: I need to do that too – comfort those in need. Stop being afraid to reach out.

Again, a few years ago – Marcy Epstein says “let’s plan Shmita. Let’s plan Shmita for the Jewish community of Ann Arbor and southeast MI.” And I say, “Huh? What’s Shmita? Never heard of it.” Then, “that’s too devout, that’s too spiritual, that’s too big an endeavor. I can’t.”

“Of course you can,” she said. “Food! Land! Justice! Shmita!” Aha, I hear the call. She and Carol, and Idelle and many others made me see how I was needed to help us study and celebrate Shmita.

Last year, Rabbi Alana spoke at the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice 50th Anniversary dinner. Here’s what I heard her say–more or less: “You old activists need to listen to the young activists to understand today’s issues, to understand today’s methods. And you young activists need to learn from the old how to build infrastructure.” Aha! A clear call to action. I can help with that. I can learn from different generations. I can help build bridges.

Again, this past year, right now really–the cacophony. Bells are ringing loud and clear. The shofar blowing every morning in the form of daily news. Fresh assaults on our values nearly every day. The antithesis of tikkun olam. I heard, I hear this shofar. Most of us here today hear the call to action. And our community, like usual, we’re hearing that call–we’re listening, processing–the are wheels turning, and we’re helping each other find our way to action.

I decided in November to become “An Activist.” (Because I need yet another career path, another to-do list, right?) I’ve been listening to my mother saying over and over again–“gerrymandering is tearing apart our nation.” Aha! The light bulb goes on, the idea crystallizes, I hear the call. I can act to fix that.

I look around our congregation and see role models everywhere, activists of all sorts, hearing the call, living their values, giving their skills and time, acting to make the world a better place in a myriad of different ways. I tell Rebecca Kanner I’m going to work on redistricting reform. I ask her to teach me how to be an activist.  She says “you already are.” What? Huh? ……Aha! thank you. Thank you for giving me the confidence to say, yes. Yes, I am an Activist.

So thank you, my Ann Arbor Reconstructionist community for giving me the support, the role models, the opportunities and the confidence to truly heed the shofar. We all hear the call. We are all acting.

 

Join the 2016 AARC CROP Hunger Walk Team

Submitted by Cara Spindler

crop-walk-graphicOn Sunday, September 25 the Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice (ICPJ) is hosting the 42nd Annual Washtenaw/Ann Arbor CROP Hunger.  ICPJ has organized this 5k charitable walk since 1974, raising a total of $3.2 million over the decades.  Last year Washtenaw County walkers raised $48,500, with about 300 walkers participating.

CROP Hunger Walks are locally organized by businesses, schools, and communities of faith. “CROP” originally stood for the “Christian Rural Overseas Program,” a 1947 joint program between several church organizations to help with post-war poverty.  Today these community-wide local events seek to raise funds to end hunger and increase food security and food-related social justice in the U.S. and globally.  More than 1,600 walks take place across the U.S. annually.  About 25% of the proceeds go to local hunger-fighting efforts, and the walker can determine where the remaining 75% of their raised funds goes (choosing from a vetted list of global hunger agencies).

Please come and walk with us on September 25!  Call Cara Spindler ( 734-255-0939) if you want to coordinate more.  Our contingent will gather at Trinity Lutheran at 1:30 pm.  

STARTING LOCATION: Trinity Lutheran Church (1400 W Stadium Blvd., Ann Arbor, MI 48103)

DATE: Sunday, September 25, 2016, 1–4 PM

To sign up:

  1. Go to the CROP Hunger Walk website using this link
  2. Click REGISTER
  3. Fill out the form (or sign in using Facebook)
  4. When you get to “Create or Join a Team” choose “Join an existing team”
  5. Click “see list” next to the search box, and select “Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation”
  6. Click the “Join Now” button.

Your friends and neighbors can donate via the website (once you log in there’s lots of tools for soliciting donations and accepting payment)—or you can bring a check/cash to drop off at the Walk.

See you on September 25!

Jews and Social Justice: Neither synonymous nor in conflict, but up to you

poverty wages are not kosherAARC visiting rabbi, Alana Alpert, is spearheading a fundraising campaign to launch Detroit Jews for Justice and is asking all of us to help. “Detroit is an incredible place full of courageous and resilient people who I feel so privileged to learn from and to struggle with,” she says in a crowdfunding video. “What happens in Detroit matters not just to the people here.  We are not just a symbol, but a microcosm. What we win or lose here has impacts across the country.”

Rabbi Alana is a gifted young rabbi, and a skilled community organizer. But, she says, “There was a time when I thought I had to choose between my Jewish identity and being a social justice activist. And then I realized that not only were they not in conflict, but they could make each other stronger.” Detroit Jews for Justice is carrying on the Jewish traditions of activism in the women’s, labor, and civil rights movements, and bringing them into this moment in history. Since 2014 DJJ has organized and participated in a long list of activities including support for #blacklivesmatter, protesting the Detroit water shutoffs, and supporting fast food workers and Wal-Mart employees in their struggle for fair wages and decent working conditions. Take a look here at what DJJ has already accomplished.

In a counterpoint to Rabbi Alana’s pre-rabbinical school feeling that she had to choose between her Jewish identify and social justice activism, one commenter on the crowdfunding video wrote, “There was a time when I thought Jews and social justice were synonymous.” There’s some food for good discussion. But, right now, Detroit Jews for Justice has picked up the baton to strengthen the tradition of Jewish involvement in social justice activism. With ten days left, the crowdfunding has raised two thirds of its goal of $18,000. You can become a Founding Supporter here.

Human Rights Activism is a Source of Light

truah_logo_web_no_RHRNAFor our Shabbat morning service during Hanukkah this year, December 12, AARC will be joining hundreds of other congregations around the U.S. in a focus on human rights activism.  “T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights,” an organization with a long history of Jewish ethical and social justice leadership, organizes this annual Human Rights Shabbat. Rabbi Alana Alpert, rabbi at Congregation T’Chiyah in Oak Park and community organizer with Detroit Jews for Justice–and our visiting rabbi this year–is among the 1,800 rabbis who are part of the T’ruah network. She will be leading our service on December 12 and we’ve invited members of T’Chiyah to join us in Ann Arbor.

T’ruah offers organizational and intellectual support for Jewish work on issues such as ending mass incarceration, justice for farmworkers in the U.S., and standing against Islamophobia.   Rabbi Robert Dobrusin of Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor is a recent past Co-chair.  At its website  are abundant excellent study, worship, and advocacy materials (including one study guide based on Margo Schlanger’s AARC d’var torah from Yom Kippur services a couple of years ago).

The roots of T’ruah as an organization go back to the early 1970s, when a cohort of Reform rabbinic students at Hebrew Union College (HUC) in Cincinnati brought their anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights activism into their rabbinic training. Some, like Rabbi Myron Kinberg z”l (my brother), as undergraduates in the ‘60s, had trained with Clergy and Laity Concerned to do counseling with conscientious objectors. Others had been Freedom Riders, helping to register Black voters in the South. When they became rabbinic students in 1967 and 1968, they read the texts with those fresh experiences. The T’ruah website quotes one key text newly understood as a call for racial justice and human equality: “Beloved is all humankind for they were made b’tzelem Elohim (in the image of God). Doubly beloved are they, for they were told that they were made in the image of God. As it says: ‘In the image of God was humankind made.’” (Genesis 9:6) Mishnah, Pirkei Avot 3:14.

Upon ordination in 1972, one of this cohort of students, Rabbi David Forman z”l, made Aliyah. While leading the struggle for religious pluralism in Israel as director of the Israel office of the Union for Reform Judaism (1976-2003), he also founded Rabbis for Human Rights in 1988, in Israel. Another of the group of HUC students, Rabbi Bruce Cohen z”l, ordained in 1973, was sent to Israel to do peace work by his New Haven congregation in 1976 following the murder of five Israeli Arabs during protests in Nazareth, northern Israel. Rabbi Cohen co-founded, with Farhat Agbaria, the organization Interns for Peace, which for many years focused on bringing American Jewish college students to Israel to work on projects with Israeli Arabs and Jews. One such college student was Israeli’s Rabbis for Human Rights long time and current President, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, who worked with Interns for Peace in 1981-1983.

In 2002 Rabbis for Human Rights-North America was founded as a multi-denominational network of rabbis and Jewish communities to protect human rights in North America and Israel. Renamed T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, in 2013, it continues to continue to call on its supporters in North America and around the world to educate and advocate for an Israel embodying our highest Jewish values.

Human rights movements gain their strength from the power of the people as a whole, the soul of a movement rather than the individual bodies who take part. As individuals we might tire, our bodies might weaken, but it is the light of our collective power – which grows brighter and brighter over time – that gives us the strength to go on. Likewise, charismatic leaders come and go, and we might think it is their light that inspires us and produces change. But they, too, are bodies, which wane and dwindle. A truly wise leader nurtures the souls of the movement, builds towards a systemic victory. He or she lets their light burn with others, rather than standing aloft as the shamash.

 – Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster from a Human Rights Commentary on Chanukah

Please join us on Saturday morning, December 12, as we celebrate this Human Rights Shabbat along with congregations across the country.

ICPJ 50th Anniversary: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

icpj 50thby Deb Kraus

When Ruth Kraut approached me five years ago to see if I wanted to be on the board of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ), I had only the slightest sense of what they did. I was aware that most of the people I knew who did political work were at least tangentially connected to ICPJ; what I didn’t know is that I was actually one of those people!

ICPJ coordinates the local CROP walk every year. I had walked in the CROP walk. Back in 1998, ICPJ organized a peacekeeping team to mitigate between the KKK and the equally angry counter demonstrators when the KKK came to Ann Arbor to recruit. I went to the peace demonstration that day. [editor’s note: For more news of that day here and here.]

Every year, ICPJ goes to protest at the School of the Americas, and I knew that Rebecca Kanner did civil disobedience that landed her in prison, but I’m not sure I knew that this was in the context of ICPJ. When I was a graduate student, I heard about and participated in an anti-war protest when George HW Bush was the UM commencement speaker. Just this past weekend, I found out this, too, was the work of ICPJ. And as our shmita team would attest, there was a lot of cross-pollination between our work and ICPJ’s theme year work on Food and Justice.

This is a subset of the great work that this organization has spearheaded. I am pleased to be involved in this work, and pleased that so many of you have some involvement in ICPJ as well. In fact, I sometimes joke that ICPJ is our social justice arm.

So here’s my ask:

In less than three weeks, ICPJ is hosting an anniversary dinner party to celebrate 50 years of peace and justice work in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County.

It will be at 6 p.m. at the Morris Lawrence Building at WCC on Saturday, November 14. There will be remembrances from past decades, a silent auction, and a preview of what is happening in 2016. And our own Rabbi Alana will be one of the two keynote speakers as ICPJ looks ahead to the next 50 years.

Dinner will be family-style service with chicken and vegetarian options, sourced with fresh, local, seasonal ingredients.

The dinner is $50/person.

You can rsvp via email (jane@icpj.org) or phone (734-663-1870)–in which case you will be asked to send in a check–or you can get your tickets online.

I know it will be a great night, and I hope you can join me.

Teach-Ins: 50 Years Ago and Today

teach in 50Fifty years ago this week, AARC member Alan Haber helped to organize the first anti-Vietnam War “teach-in” on the campus of the University of Michigan. In February and March 1965, the United States had begun sustained bombing of North Vietnam (and, secretly, Laos and Cambodia), and the first ground combat troops landed. As a co-founder and the first president (1960) of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Alan had been organizing against the war for years. According to recent articles recalling the events, a few UM professors wanted to call a one day strike, but amid backlash decided to use their positions and the university’s resources differently. The first 12-hour teach-in (8pm-8am March 24-25, 1965) in campus spaces and involving two hundred professors and thousands of students, was a significant escalation of the anti-war protest movement. This coming weekend, March 27-28, the UM is hosting a “Teach-In +50: End the War Against the Planet.”

In a prelude to the weekend’s events, Alan and many other longtime peace activists are spending the week assessing lessons from the past and applying them to violent conflicts that still plague our world. You can still catch two panels on Thursday, March 26: On today’s wars in the Middle East, 3:00-5:30pm, Room B780 School of Social Work lower level; and Winning the Peace: What have We Learned, 7-9pm in the International Institute’s Meeting Room.

The full program for the week-end Teach-In is here

Hand in Hand Jewish-Arab Education in Israel

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AARC is a co-sponsor of the visit to Ann Arbor of Lee Gordon, co-founder of Hand In Hand, Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel. He will be here March 20-22 for a series of open community events highlighting the work of these bilingual and multicultural Jewish-Arab schools. The weekend’s events will give you the opportunity to be a part of this diverse intercultural Ann Arbor gathering in support of a shared society in Israel.

Community members are invited to all events:

Friday, March 20, 7:30 PM: “Continuing Together, without Hate and without Fear” Guest sermon, Social Action Shabbat service. Temple Beth Emeth, 2309 Packard Street

Saturday, March 21, 8:00 PM: “Building a Shared Society Together: Multicultural Education and Peacemaking in Israel,” an interfaith, multicultural gathering. St. Clare of Assisi Episcopal Church/Temple Beth Emeth, 2309 Packard Street

Sunday, March 22, 4:00 PM: “Overcoming the Jewish-Arab Divide in Israel: Building a Model of Integrated Schools and Leadership,” hosted by Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor. Jewish Community Center, 2939 Birch Hollow Drive

Please RSVP to handinhanda2@gmail.com indicating which event(s) you plan to attend.

Co-sponsors: Temple Beth Emeth, St. Clare of Assisi Episcopal Church, Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor, Jewish Cultural Society, Beth Israel Congregation, Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation, Chelsea First United Methodist Church, First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor, Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, First Unitarian Universalist Association of Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Hillel.

 

On Volunteering at the Community Kitchen

By Debbie Field

I’ve been cooking since childhood, and I feel pretty confident in the kitchen.  But the first time I volunteered at Food Gatherers’ Community Kitchen at the Delonis Center, I learned a lot about how the professionals do it: health department rules require meticulous attention to cleanliness, the knives are extremely sharp, and if you forget to bring your own hat, you really do have to wear one of those hairnets. If you come a few times, you graduate from mixing powdered lemonade or slicing leftover cake to making stew for 70 on the big range. If, like me, you enjoy feeding people, you will find that a fun and satisfying experience.


From Mike Ehmann: Our congregation provides volunteers for a scheduled shift the first Saturday of every month from noon to 2:30. The Community Kitchen is inside the Delonis Center, 312 W. Huron St, Ann Arbor. This is a great opportunity for adults and for youth over 12 years old to participate in this wonderful team meal prep experience. Keep in mind that only 2 of the 5 volunteers may be between 12-18 years of age. Food Gatherers and Community Kitchen staff are very grateful for our participation.