Returning to JCUA feels like coming home.
JCUA for me is a group of people I care deeply about, a vision for the world I try to enact every day, and a set of values I aspire to embody. From the d’var Torah at our weekly staff meeting, to calling on our shared heritage to think critically about how we talk about our campaign work, it is both comfortable and powerful for me to be back here. I am so grateful for the opportunity to come home and grateful to every person who makes it feel like home.
I want to talk briefly here about the privilege of feeling at home somewhere.
On my first day back at JCUA, a year after completing my Avodah service corps year here, I attended a press conference and rally led by the Protection for All Movement. It was in response to the announcement made that day by Jeff Sessions that the DACA program would be discontinued in 6 months and that no new DACA applications could be filed at this time.
The rally was emotional – anger, fear, hopelessness, but also passion, determination, and a tremendous will to continue the fight for every person, not just DREAMers, to have a life free from the fear of deportation. My dear friend and a powerful organizer, Maria Torres, lit a fire in my stomach when she spoke to the large crowd that had assembled and said: “My parents raised me to care for the most vulnerable and to fight for justice. Who am I to say that they are less deserving than me to live without fear? …We must stand today with the most vulnerable in our communities. Will you stand with me to demand protection for all immigrants?”
The crowd roared, my heart skipped a beat, and I realized that this is the work that I am called to do right now, and JCUA is where I am called to do it. While the varieties of Jewish experience are as numerous as the number of Jews in the world, many in the Jewish community would say that we are a people that knows what it means to no longer be welcomed in a nation we have long called home. We know what it means to be demonized, alienated, and scapegoated in a place we were once welcomed and have lived as a community for decades. I echo many others when I say, we have seen this before, and we can’t let the same cycle of fear, oppression, and intolerance happen again on our watch.
For example, here in Chicago: what does it mean to call a city home that prides itself on being a “Welcoming City,” but that carves out whole swaths of the city’s community in its ordinance of that very name? What would it feel like to be included in that carve out, to have a family member in that carve out, a friend? Immigrants in Chicago, no matter their immigration status, criminal record, family history, mental health diagnosis – the list goes on and on – should be welcome in the city they call home. And it is our responsibility to stand together to see that “should” become reality.
At JCUA, I feel welcome, safe, at home. May we soon share in a day when everyone in this city, state, and country can say the same for the places they live and work.