Synagogues to sponsor Sunday rally aimed at ‘securing safety’ for immigrants

  • The Western Mass Jewish Activists for Immigration Justice held a rally in 2019 to celebrate the return of Immigration Activist Eduardo Samaniego after being detained by ICE and deported. This Sunday, the organization will stage a “Securing Safety” immigration justice event at 2 p.m. at the at the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation Connecticut River Greenway State Park on Damon Road in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 9/27/2022 12:41:08 PM

NORTHAMPTON — During visits to Homestead, Florida, where unaccompanied migrant children were being held, and to the U.S.-Mexico border in Brownsville, Texas where detention camps were located, members of a local immigration justice organization saw firsthand the effects of the nation’s immigration policies.

With Ken Burns’ Holocaust documentary now being aired, including details of the United States turning away a ship with more than 900 Jewish refugees on board in 1939, Alice Levine, a member of the Jewish Activists for Immigration Justice of Western Massachusetts, said it is an appropriate time to stage a “Securing Safety” immigration justice event.

“We want to make sure there is justice and safety for all of those who are fleeing danger,” Levine said. “The focus is on all who have fled unsafe conditions in their home countries, whether that be violence, acute hunger or natural disasters.”

The event that is timed to the Jewish High Holidays will take place Sunday at 2 p.m. at the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation Connecticut River Greenway State Park on Damon Road in Northampton, at the foot of the Coolidge Bridge. It will be similar to a 2019 immigration justice event held in the same vicinity.

Levine said the aim is to protect immigrants locally, at the border and around the country. The effort means confronting the violence faced by people at camps along the border and those in the midst of making the journey, some of whom have died in the desert upon making it to the United States.

“We’re a small group, but we see ourselves as a catalyst for these issues,” Levine said.

The activists will use the event to continue to focus on repealing Title 42, the U.S. immigration policy that allows for the expulsion of asylum-seekers from the country without a court hearing due to the pandemic, and will promote the Yes on 4 campaign in advance of the November election to preserve the state law that gives access to driver’s license for all residents.

Levine said it is appropriate to have the event near Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, times of self reflection and a renewal to a commitment of values. The event is being sponsored by three of the four area synagogues, including Congregation B’Nai Israel in Northampton, Beit Ahavah in Florence and Temple Israel in Greenfield, and the Tikkun Olam Committee of the Jewish Community of Amherst.

Speakers that day will be Rabbi Justin David from Congregation B’nai Israel, Rabbi Riqi Kosovske from Beit Ahavah and Rabbi Andrea Cohen Kiener of Temple Israel. Also speaking will be Razvan Sibii, a Daily Hampshire Gazette columnist on immigration and incarceration issues and professor at the University of Massachusetts.

Toby Bobbit, a member of the First Church of Amherst, a congregation of the United Church of Christ, and Javier Luengo-Garrido, organizing strategist and community advocate for the ACLU of Massachusetts, will also speak, as will Marie Ange Laroche, a Haitian case manager at Jewish Family Services of Western Massachusetts that is helping just-arrived migrants to the Pioneer Valley from Haiti.

Levine said people will be commenting from their different connections to immigration. There will also be written stories from asylum-seekers read aloud and posted around the site.

People of all, or no, faiths are welcome to participate, though some of the activities will be specific to the Jewish faith, including the blowing of the shofar and a Tashlich-like casting of stones into the water.

Those who participate can park at the site or a short distance away at Sheldon Field. Due to the proximity of the Norwottuck Rail Trail, people are also able to come by bicycle or on foot.

The Jewish Activists group is partnering with other organizations, including Welcome with Dignity, HIAS and the Detention Watch Network.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.
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