Tisha B’Av is often considered the most somber day on the Jewish calendar.It’s the day we mourn the destruction of the holy temples of ancient Jerusalem. It’s the day we recount the tragedies Jews have experienced throughout our history: demonization, eviction, pogroms and genocide. It’s the day we reflect on the corrosive power of sinat chinam, baseless hatred, which animates our worst tendencies as individuals and nations.
We are a nation that hunts down, detains and deports immigrants. We are a nation that separates families, cages children and turns away asylum seekers. Our baseless hatred has metastasized.
To bring attention to this widespread suffering, JCUA and a coalition of Jewish and immigrant justice organizations co-sponsored a vigil, “How Desolate Lie Our Borders,” outside the Jerome Combs Detention Center in Kankakee, Illinois. We took action because we believe it’s not enough for Jews to spend Tisha B’Av reflecting on our own suffering, but that we must also channel our collective resolve to confront the tragedies unfolding across our country.
How desolate lies the city, that was full of people! She has become like a widow. She that was great among the nations, and royalty among the provinces, has become a forced laborer. She weeps bitterly in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks. Among all her lovers, she has none to comfort her. All her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies. (Lamentations 1:1–2)
The vigil was organized in five parts, mirroring the five chapters of the biblical Book of Lamentations (Eicha). For each part, we chanted verses from Lamentations, then listened to the testimony of individuals suffering from cruel and unjust immigration policies. We also learned about the work advocacy organizations are undertaking, such as Connect Kankakee, a local group pushing Kankakee County to end its cooperation with ICE and working to prevent a proposed expansion of the Jerome Combs Detention Center.
The event was co-sponsored by a broad coalition of Jewish and immigrant justice organizations, including T’ruah — Chicago, Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants, Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America, Connect Kankakee, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, National Council of Jewish Women, RAC-IL, #IfNotNow — Chicago, Jewish Voice for Peace — Chicago, J Street — Chicago, HIAS Immigration & Citizenship/JCFS Chicago, Avodah — Chicago, and Bend the Arc — Champaign Urbana.
Click here to see more pictures from the action.