“How can our water not be fine?”

Today makes 1660 days without access to tap drinkable water. What’s even scarier is there are places all around the country with water worse then Flint and they have no idea yet. — Mari Copeny (@LittleMissFlint) September 11, 2018

By Mark Schneyer

In her Rosh Hashanah sermon this year, Rabbi Ora urged us to “Choose Life,” and focused our attention on issues that prevent people from having access to clean water. I thought it would be useful to list some of the people and organizations mentioned in her sermon, as well as a few related ones::

Finally, Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who stood up to advocate for the kids of Flint at a time when the state of Michigan claimed there was no problem with Flint’s water, has written a new book, What the Eyes Don’t See, telling the story of her fight and some of her own history as well. She spoke tonight in Ann Arbor, and said the title of the book refers both to the invisibility of lead in water as well as “problems we choose not to see.”

She described her inner dialogue when she was deciding to go public with the truth she was learning. “How can our water not be fine?” she said she asked herself. The government had experts testing and overseeing and enforcing the law, the water must be clean. But the evidence told her otherwise and she launched her fight.

 

#MoralEmergency

On July 2, 2018 in La Opinión, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the United States, Bend the Arc published a translation of the Declaration of a State of Moral Emergency, signed by over 200 Jewish organizations and more than 18,000 American Jews in response to the Trump administration’s separation and detention of immigrant families.  Reconstructing Judaism, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, and many Reconstructionist congregations are among the signers. Here is a link to a pdf of the full-page ad.

For more ways to get involved with other local Jews organizing to serve our immigrant neighbors threatened with deportation, see the blog and website “We Were Strangers MI.”

 

To this country, in whose promise we still believe, to the millions of people who are outraged and horrified, and especially to the thousands of children who have been separated from their families, we declare our nation to be in a state of moral emergency.

This Administration has established border policies unprecedented in their scope and cruelty, that are inflicting physical, mental, and emotional harm on immigrants and punishing those seeking refuge at our borders.

We are anguished by the stories and images of desperate parents torn from their babies and detention facilities packed with children. We shudder with the knowledge that these inhumane policies are committed in our name, and we lift our voices in protest.

The Jewish community, like many others, knows all too well what it looks like for a government to criminalize the most vulnerable, to lie and obfuscate to justify grossly immoral practices under the banner of “the law,” to interpret holy scripture as a cover for human cruelty, to normalize what can never be made normal. We have seen this before.

When crying children are taken from their parents’ arms, the American Jewish community must not remain silent.

To those who are targeted by these cruel policies, know that the Jewish community hears your cries. We will take risks to support you, and we will demand that our nation’s leaders take action. We will not abide the claim that people didn’t know or understand the extent of your suffering; we will not allow your torment to be in vain.

Our government can persist in this inhumane behavior only if good people remain silent.

And so we declare a state of moral emergency, and we rise to meet this moment. Even as our democratic institutions are under duress, we raise our voices and take decisive action. United by the wisdom of our tradition, we stand with immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, with the children, and with their parents. We declare: Not here. Not now. Not in our name.

Letter from Lillie Schneyer

Mark, Jacob and Lillie Schneyer, Debbie Field looking proud at Lillie graduation from Carleton, June 2018.

In June 2018, Lillie Schneyer, daughter of AARC board president Debbie Field and Mark Schneyer, graduated from Carleton College, with majors in sociology and anthropology. Next, she’ll be following in the footsteps of Rabbi Alana, Rabbi Ora, and Molly Kraus-Steinmetz by spending the year doing social justice work through Avodah. Lillie is raising money to support that work, here is a link to her fundraiser!
Below is Lillie’s letter to our AARC community.

Hello, family and friends!

If you know me at all, you know that I like to be useful, try to be a positive force in my community, and, like most people, I am a little unsure of what I want to do with my life. Searching for a job for after college was initially overwhelming; it’s a big world, and I could do so many things. When I found Avodah, it was clearly a perfect fit. Through Avodah’s Jewish Service Corps program, I was matched with a supportive community, an organization that helps people, and a job that will allow me to be useful and learn more about the world.

Thanks to Avodah’s job matching program, I will spend the next year working as a volunteer coordinator at Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA) in Chicago. CGLA serves people who have been negatively impacted by the criminal justice system. By helping with expungement and record sealing petitions, other legal services, and partnering with social service organizations, CGLA helps its clients overcome barriers related to their arrests and convictions as they build better lives. As the volunteer coordinator, I’m excited to bring my energy and organizational skills to help make this work possible.

Avodah is making this all happen for me, and I am especially thrilled about the opportunity to live with other young Jewish adults doing similar social justice work. Through the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation, I have been lucky to grow up with a Jewish community full of learning and friendship. I hope that next year, the Avodah community will help me discover what being a Jewish adult might look like for me, and and I look forward to the support, challenges, and new friends that it will bring

I am so excited for this unique opportunity, and your support for this campaign would mean a lot as I work to raise $1500 before I leave for Chicago in August. Whatever you feel comfortable donating will be much appreciated, and please reach out to me if you have any questions or want to know more. Thank you for your time!

A letter from Anita about the Poor People’s Campaign

Dear AARC,

Yesterday I participated in the fifth week of rallies and actions with the Poor People’s Campaign. An effort initiated long ago by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., it has been re-awakened  by Rev. William Barber, who speaks of it as a national call for a moral revival.

In 30 or more states, in their Capitol cities, protests have been held each week since May 14. The next local rally will be next Monday, June 18, this time in Detroit, and then on the 25th there will be a national protest in D.C.  Each week has had a theme and a related action of civil disobedience.

You may not have heard about the Poor People’s Campaign and their acts of civil disobedience. Here is a good article about the Poor People’s Campaign, that also answers some of the questions folks are asking about the civil disobedience portion of the campaign and why people were asked to used social media to publicize and promote the demands and goals.

This week’s theme was fair wages and affordable housing. We were joined  in Lansing by a large group from Detroit, D15, fighting for a $15 minimum wage. The civil disobedience took place at the Michigan State Department of Housing Development, where a group called Moratorium Now had a scheduled meeting to try to reverse the decision to use millions of dollars to demolish homes in Detroit and elsewhere instead of helping people in foreclosure.

We were a diverse group racially and age wise. There was a strong clergy presence, and Rabbis Alana Alpert and Ariana Silverman were among them.

Jewish Text Study

EVERYBODY’S GOT A RIGHT TO LIVE: JOBS, INCOME,
THE RIGHT TO ORGANIZE AND HOUSING
by Rabbi Michael Rothbaum

I was trained for the civil disobedience action and volunteered to be one of those to be arrested. There is personal and legal support teams for those who volunteer for an action. The movement is well organized and spirits are kept lifted through chant and song. I am writing this to encourage anyone with the inclination and availability to participate next Monday. The Michigan chapter has a web page and a Facebook page.

The Poor People’s Campaign is worth your attention if you feel called to speak for justice in any of these areas: universal healthcare, LGBT rights, gender equality, fair wages, affordable housing, public education, free higher education, an end to racism etc.

Shalom,

Anita Rubin-Meiller

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.

Resources for Passover 2018

A contemporary illustrated haggadah by the Israeli artist Avner Moriah in the Jewish Museum (NY) collection

If every year we used the Haggadah from last year, Dayenu, it would be enough.

But given our creative, ever seeking natures, we also like to embellish the Haggadah (and our seders) each year with something new. The history of adding to the Haggadah with additional readings, illustrations, and songs is explained in this Jewish Virtual Library entry.

At Haggadot.com, you can create your own Haggadah using clips that others have contributed. The site has some great examples of Haggadot that you can use, too!

 

Below are some resources for celebrating Passover this year:

The Hadar Institute, whose mission is to empower Jews to create and sustain vibrant, practicing, egalitarian communities of Torah, Avodah, and Hesed, is the only full-time, gender-egalitarian yeshiva in North America. Here are Passover resources from Hadar.

Jacob Richman’s (a Jewish librarian colleague) Passover Spotify Playlist (over 100 songs).

From Jews for Justice (Baltimore): A Seder for Migrant Justice

From the 1969 Freedom Seder

The Shalom Center has put together a new “MLK + 50 Interfaith Freedom Seder” commemorating 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated.  And here is a link to the original, 1969 Freedom Seder.

Repair the World and Be’chol Lashon have partnered to create two resources for your Passover Seder: Avadim Hayenu is a one page Haggadah insert and Trivia Place-Cards for your seder table  highlight multi-ethnic and multiracial Jewish Passover traditions from around the world. You can download the insert and the Trivia Place-Cards here.

Just a really nice interview with Marquis Hollie from Reform Judaism, At the Intersection of Passover and Shared Otherness: The Making of “Go Down Moshe

American Jewish World Service has a full Haggadah, an insert about the Rohingya Crisis, “An Exodus in Our Time,” and several different readings all downloadable here.

Refugee Haggadah: This 2017 supplement, created by the refugee resettlement group formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, ties the Jewish refugee experience to that of modern-day refugees.

T’ruah Rabbis for Human Rights is distributing stickers that say “Resisting tyrants since Pharaoh” here.

 

 

Work for Good with Avodah

Do you know someone in our community in their early twenties who is looking for something good to do next year?

Applications are open for the Avodah Jewish Service Corps, a year-long program of nonprofit job placements for recent college grads aged 21-26. The Avodah program is aimed to help build leadership skills, an active Jewish community life, a powerful professional network, and a more just America.

Corps Members build expertise through work placements with Avodah’s partner organizations in Chicago, New Orleans, New York, and Washington, D.C. They contribute to their partners’ work on crucial justice issues such as immigration, hunger, education, public health, and domestic violence while developing activist chops and Jewish social justice insights through Avodah’s trusted, innovative curriculum. During the year, Corps Members live and learn in the dynamic Avodah community. Home-cooked meals, late night conversations, and holiday celebrations make living in the bayit memorable and meaningful.

Both Rabbi Ora and Rabbi Alana are alumni of the Avodah fellowship program, and Molly Kraus-Steinmetz is a currently in an Avodah placement at the Jane Adamms Senior Caucus in Chicago.

When I asked Molly how her year with Avodah is going, she wrote:

This year, Avodah has given me the amazing opportunity to work full-time as a community organizer at Jane Addams Senior Caucus, a position that most recent college grads would not qualify for. I’ve been able to grow as an organizer and make real change for seniors in Chicago, and Avodah has helped me along the way by providing the emotional, financial, and professional resources I needed to succeed. Instead of moving to a new city and having to build friends and a support system from scratch, I’ve found community with the other young Jews in nonprofit jobs who are doing Avodah with me. Instead of navigating Chicago’s rapidly gentrifying housing market on my own, I’ve been living in a safe, healthy, and affordable communal living situation provided by Avodah. And for perhaps the last time in my life (unless I end up in a union) I have the support of Avodah staff ready to help me with any challenges I face in my first real job.
Many of you might remember that last summer, I was reaching out to Reconchat to fundraise for the Avodah Jewish Service Corps in preparation for my year there. At the time, I was secretly unsure what the future held and doubting whether I’d made the right choice of post-graduation jobs. Now, halfway through my Avodah year in Chicago, I feel fairly confident that I made the right choice by joining this program.
Are there things I would change about Avodah? Of course, and I’ll happily fill you in on the ups and downs if you reach out to me personally. But I also recognize that the structure of Avodah has allowed me to succeed and grow this year in a way that a traditional full-time job definitely wouldn’t, and I’m so, so glad that I ended up in this program. Avodah is an incredible opportunity for young Jews who want to make a difference, and I hope that anyone looking for a job right now will check it out.

The program provides a monthly living stipend, travel allowance, health insurance, and subsidized housing, in addition to a year of professional and leadership development. After their Service Corps year, participants will access activism, professional development, and Jewish opportunities for life through the Avodah alumni community.

Avodah is looking for leaders and not-yet-leaders, activists and organizers, challah bakers and Shabbat dinner hosts, teachers, learners, and everyone in between to spend the next year pursuing justice with Avodah.

Are you our next Jewish Service Corps Member?

Do you know someone who is wondering what they can do to help create a more just America, or how to build a career that makes a difference in people’s lives?

Find out more at avodah.net/serve, or reach out to apply@avodah.net.

Avodah is currently in rolling admissions with upcoming deadlines on 2/25 and 3/27.

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.

Ann Arbor Jews prepare for white supremacist speaker at UMich

In anticipation of Richard Spencer’s likely speech on UMich campus during 2018 spring break, Jews in Ann Arbor are preparing. The visit raises an array of  issues for the University and the community. On January 10, 2018 Spencer’s team sued the University of Cincinnati in a scenario similar to what’s happening in Ann Arbor.

Jews in Ann Arbor are adopting a variety of approaches to preparing for Spencer. The comment feature on this blog post is open so that you can weigh in on your reactions to these.

In mid-December the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor sent out a letter, co-signed by the leadership of most Ann Arbor congregations including AARC, which urged us to prepare for Spencer’s appearance here. The letter says in part, “We are reaching out to Ann Arbor city representatives, the Ann Arbor Police Department, and to the University with the aim of collaborating on effective measures to ensure the safety of our community’s people and institutions…”

Many UM students and faculty are taking an activist approach which eschews collaborating with the police. The Detroit Jewish News reported on protests here. The Stop Spencer at the University of Michigan campaign is bringing together many constituencies targeted by white supremacy and rising white nationalism. Their statement of organization reads:

Richard Spencer has invited himself to speak at the University of Michigan. We have preemptively created this protest event (date to be determined if and when he comes to campus) to get people thinking about what they will be doing when a prominent white supremacist and his supporters arrive on campus and in our community.
We support a diversity of tactics being used against Spencer. We are not interested in telling people what to do on this day, nor do we see it as our role to do so. #StopSpencer is not planning any official protest or event.
Safety is our primary concern. Any form of protest that does not center the needs and well-being of marginalized people is not one that will be effective in protesting Spencer, who will be targeting those same folx. We call on you to critically reflect on your actions, and what groups you choose to work with, in order to understand the potential impacts (harmful or not) on others.
The fight against white supremacy, racism, police violence, Islamophobia and antisemitism is ongoing work. Richard Spencer’s visit is merely a symptom of the white supremacy that is institutionalized in this University, our local government, and local and state police forces (ie the Ann Arbor Police Department). We condemn the history of collaboration between white supremacists and police, which specifically occurred in the 80s and 90s in Ann Arbor. We ask that you acknowledge the legacy of local resistance, and lend your resources to groups already involved in the fight against white supremacy.
We encourage you to leverage your privilege, power, or capacity to take collective action against Spencer in any way you are able. We believe it is imperative to dismantle white supremacy in all its forms.
In solidarity,
Stop Spencer at the University of Michigan

Recently, Jewish students have organized the ad hoc Ann Arbor Jews Against White Supremacy, which is aligned with the campus Stop Spencer campaign.

Two upcoming events of interest:

Stop Spencer at the University of Michigan Town Hall Meeting,

Saturday January 13, 2:30-4:30 in the Anderson Room at the Michigan Union. The purpose of this event is to learn about Richard Spencer’s potential visit from Stop Spencer organizers and community members. For facebook info on the Town Hall.

And specifically for Jews (though everyone is welcome), on Saturday January 27, 7-9pm, a havdallah “to resist antisemitism and white supremacy.” Location to be announced. The purpose of this gathering is to join together with “members of the Jewish community in Ann Arbor for community-building, story sharing, and organizing for the first of a two-part Havdallah gatherings!  Richard Spencer’s visit to the University of Michigan is harmful to our Jewish community. It also deeply affects (Jewish and non-Jewish) people of color, queer, trans*, and two-spirit folks, Muslim people, immigrants, and other groups targeted by white supremacy.” For facebook info on the havdallah.

This post is open for comments. What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calling all justice-seekers and justice-pursuers!

On Shabbat morning, December 9th, AARC will be celebrating Human Rights Shabbat along with more than 140 congregations across the globe. The centerpiece of our Shabbat service will be YOU. Whether you’re involved in local activism or global human rights work, you are invited to share your work and inspiration with our community.

 

Please sign up to present as part of our Human Rights Shabbat here. We’re excited to hear from you! On Shabbat morning, you’ll be given 4 minutes (total) to address the following questions:
  1. How does your Judaism inform your activism?
  2. What gives you hope?

Speaking of ‘justice-pursuers,’ this unusual turn of phrase comes from the Hebrew ‘tzedek tzedek tirdof’ – ‘justice, justice you shall pursue, so that you might live’ (Deuteronomy 16:20). Various commentators have asked why the word ‘justice’ (sometimes translated as ‘righteousness’) is repeated in the verse. Some have interpreted the repetition as a subtle reminder that the pursuit of justice must also be pursued with justice.

Rav Elya Meir Bloch, a 20th century Orthodox rabbi, elaborates:

“Many times we pursue that which is righteous and fair. Our goal is to ensure that what is right prevails. We are often tempted to let the ends justify the means. We may overlook the fact that we have to step on a few laws here and there as long as in the end ‘righteousness will prevail.’

We know unfortunately how many times throughout history the pursuit of justice was carried on with unjust ways. This has caused terrible destruction. The message of our verse is that we may not overlook unscrupulous methods to achieve lofty goals. Righteousness must be pursued with righteousness. Achieving tzedek in any other way is not tzedek.”

Human Rights Shabbat is organized to coincide with International Human Rights Day, which celebrates the December 10, 1948 signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This years marks its 70th year. You can participate with people from around the globe in marking this anniversary by recording your voice (with your kids!!) reading one of the articles. Here is the website to do this. If you do, let us know in the comments!