Keeping Families Together: Action Steps for Joining the Progressive Religious Movement!

What I do want to share is just how horrified I feel when I hear Jeff Sessions or Sarah Huckabee Sanders use biblical text or religion in support of these policies. The purpose of religion should be to foster connection, to nurture moral character, and to inspire us towards lives of holiness and purpose... not to justify cruelty and moral cowardice. The Bible I read may not be perfectly in synch with our modern sensibilities, but it is clear in its emphatic insistence on treating the stranger fairly, kindly, and with love!

This week certainly feels like summertime in Seattle! It's tempting to get on with our fun: plugging Shabbat in the Park events, encouraging casual summer meet-ups, and inviting you to be part of the 11th Annual Kavana Camping trip.  

But, news headlines, stories out of detention centers around the country, and photographs of families being torn apart are heart-breaking, and demand our attention.

I probably don't even need to say to the Kavana community that I believe the new policies being enacted by the current administration -- including the roll-back of eligibility for some categories of asylum-seekers, mass hearings in immigration courts, and especially the forced separation of parents and children -- are morally wrong.  We all know this in our gut, and if we needed any reminder of it, all we have to do is think back on the darkest chapter of Jewish history (Nazi Europe), or read the American Academy of Pediatric's description of this new child-parent separation policy ("child abuse") for confirmation... or just listen to the terrible audio recordings of children wailing for their parents.

What I do want to share is just how horrified I feel when I hear Jeff Sessions or Sarah Huckabee Sanders use biblical text or religion in support of these policies. The purpose of religion should be to foster connection, to nurture moral character, and to inspire us towards lives of holiness and purpose... not to justify cruelty and moral cowardice. The Bible I read may not be perfectly in synch with our modern sensibilities, but it is clear in its emphatic insistence on treating the stranger fairly, kindly, and with love!  

One of the strange silver linings of living through these dark times is that we are witnessing a rise of a new, powerful, progressive, moral voice from faith leaders and faith communities. I felt this acutely at the Jewish Emergent Network conference in LA a couple weeks ago. Our seven network communities had originally come together largely to talk about how to best build meaningful Jewish life in our respective communities (and we rabbis would talk into the wee hours of night about how to tweak membership models, craft rituals for multicultural families, etc.). Now, though, we've added new goals on top of those... goals about how to work together towards social justice ends, about how to envision a more just and compassionate world together, about how to mobilize our Jewish communities and also work with interfaith partners as we strive towards that vision. Over the past week, too, I've watched as faith leaders from all sorts of backgrounds -- not only liberal Jews and Protestants, but also Catholics, Southern Baptists, self-proclaimed Evangelicals, etc. -- have denounced the policy of familial separation. In the midst of this dreadful nightmare we're watching unfold for immigrant parents and children, perhaps there's a glimmer of hope in this.

Meanwhile, the question I know we're all asking is: What can I do to help? How can I be part of this positive wave of progressive, faith-based organizing? The answer: Do something. Here are a few concrete suggestions to get you started, but of course this is not an exhaustive list...

1) Show up, and use your (collective) voice! This issue is big enough and horrible enough that it's going to take time and energy, over and over again, to chip away at it and make change. So, if you missed the "Families Belong Together" rally at Westlake Park last week or the Interfaith Service and Vigil at Normandy Park United Church of Christ last night, please do not worry -- there will be more opportunities! 

One is a Community Briefing Regarding Asylum Seekers and Family Separation this Wednesday (tomorrow), June 20th, at 9:30am at St. Mark's Cathedral in Capitol Hill, where there will be briefings by NWIRP, ACLU, and KIND. 

The following evening, this Thursday, June 21st, "Prayer and Procession for Families at the Border" will begin at St. Mark's Cathedral at 7pm and end at St. James Roman Catholic Church.  

More protests, rallies, and vigils -- both in Seattle and at the NW Detention Center -- are already in the works, including some mass protests across the country quickly coming together for June 30th and/or July 1st. We invite you all to stay tuned in and share information with each other through our Kavana Facebook groups (we have two groups: one for Kavana partners only - email us if you are a partner with a FB account and haven't been added yet -- and another public group called The Kavana Cooperative).  

Also, Kavana partners should already have Kavana t-shirts designed specifically for public rallies like these (they are heather grey, and read: "Believe there is good in the world"/ "BE THE GOOD" on the front, with the Kavana logo on the back). We encourage you to wear these -- both to represent our organization, and to more easily link up with other Kavana folks -- at events like these. If you don't have a Kavana t-shirt yet or need extras for friends, they are available for purchase for $15 - email us to arrange.

2) Sign petitions and letters. Yes, we know that petitions are not always the most effective means of making change, and yet, these are an easy way to participate in a campaign, and can make it clear just how many individuals and groups stand together on the side of compassion and justice! More than 26 Jewish organizations have already signed a powerful letter calling on the administration to end the inhumane practice of separating families - click here to read the full text.  If YOU are looking for a way to add your voice to the Jewish chorus on this issue, Bend the Arc's "We Declare a State of Moral Emergency"is a great letter to sign onto (and you'll probably like being on their mailing list!). Or, if you like the idea of raising your voice as part of a local interfaith effort, please sign onto this letter, open to "all people of faith and goodwill, including both lay and clergy," organized by Seattle's Church Council and entitled "Defending the Sanctuary of the Family: A Faith Letter in Support of Asylum-Seekers Held at Federal Detention Center in SeaTac" (deadline tomorrow, June 20). Again, we know that there are many great letters circulating... feel free to post others to our FB groups.

3) Make a donation. Many non-profit organizations are doing great work in this field, and could use your financial support! Kavana has been in relationship with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) which is working right here in the Seattle area to provide legal support to immigrants facing deportation. In addition, Dahlia Lithwick's Slate article entitled "Here's How You Can Help Fight Family Separation at the Border," contains a great list of other suggestions as to where you can direct financial support, and it is being kept up-to-date.

4) Exert political pressure. We need Congress to pass new laws here to protect human rights and dignity of immigrants... most immediately to outlaw the forcible separation of families, but also to support DACA recipients, maintain appropriate parameters for asylum-seekers, etc. We are fortunate that here in Seattle, Washington, our representatives in Washington DC are largely supportive of these goals. Take a minute today to call and thank them, and also to encourage them to keep the pressure on their Republican (majority) colleagues to take action against the Trump administration's cruel and immoral immigration/enforcement policies!While you're on the phone, be sure to mention that you live and vote in their district/state, and tell them that you're calling as a member of a progressive Jewish community. Better yet, call your friends and family members whose representatives and senators in other regions aren't already doing the right thing, and support them in making some of these calls.

None of this is simple, and in truth, we'd all rather be spending our time, energy and money this summer on other pursuits rather than fighting these human-created disasters. But, we are living through complicated times, and the fate of our country feels like it hangs in the balance. It is up to us to work together -- with each other and with our progressive interfaith partners across this nation -- to help tip the scales in the right direction, towards justice, liberty, compassion, morality, and love. This summer is the time!

Please take action (quickly and repeatedly) on any or all of these suggested step! When you do, you can take pride in knowing that you are part of a quickly-growing Jewish and a progressive interfaith movement to restore the moral voice of progressive religious communities, and mobilize as a force for good.  

Then, I encourage you to add a little swimming, travel, and maybe a s'more or two to the mix... and join us for a Shabbat in the Park event too! After all, we need to keep our energy up, as there is much work to be done.