It was wonderful to see so many Tzedek Chicago members in the crowd at the End Detention and Deportation rally/march in Daley Plaza last Saturday. I was honored to provide the invocation on behalf of the Chicago clergy community - and it was truly a pleasure to see so many familiar faces as I looked out into the vast crowd. (You can see video of my invocation here and read the text here.)
Some random thoughts/takeaways from the event:
• I know there were many observant Jews who could not attend the rally because it was held on Shabbat. I don't fault the organizers - I understand that the scheduling of these mass events must balance and juggle a variety of factors. I will say however as someone who is personally not strictly shomer shabbat, I understood my participation in the rally as part of my Shabbat observance. When I wrote the invocation, I consciously used a Shabbat prayer - Shalom Aleichem - as a frame. As I said when I introduced it, "Among other things, on Shabbat we are asked to create the 'world to come' we are asked to build for one another the world the world we are struggling for, the world we want to see - and that's what we are doing here together this morning." (Although I didn't mention it, I was also mindful of the famous quote by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who said in regard to his participating in marches with Dr. Martin Luther King, "I was praying with my feet.")
• The first stanza of my invocation was based on experiences during my recent delegation to Honduras, in which we explored the root causes of migration. In addressing the issue of immigrant justice, I believe its critical to not only focus on events at our southern border, but to understand our complicity in the "push factors" that cause forced migration in the first place. The second stanza is based on the experiences of a real life migrant: a young pregnant woman from Cameroon - I discovered her story in this Reuters news feature. (I cannot find any more current news regarding her current status.)
• I'm writing this message one day after three young children and their adult cousin were held for over 12 hours at O'Hare airport by Border Patrol in an apparent attempt to lure their undocumented parents to the airport. There can be no doubt that they were finally released because of the huge public outcry and the mobilization of activists, the press and elected officials on behalf of this family. And of course, just last weekend, we saw a massive response in Chicago and across the country to the administration's announcement of forthcoming ICE raids. (A Chicago Tribune columnist compared this responseto the local and grassroots resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.) Among other things, these moments are important reminder that while rallies are important, the most critical work before us is to redouble our vigilance and strengthen our response networks on the ground.
As another Shabbat beckons, I know you join me in rejuvenating our commitment to building the "world we know is possible." Shalom Aleichem to you, peace to you, peace to us all...
...let's say Amen.
Rabbi Brant Rosen