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The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy

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The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy

RampageWired

The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy

RampageWired

Let My People Stay: Jewish Leaders Arrested On Capitol Hill After Demanding A Clean Dream Act

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Slider image courtesy of Bend The Arc Jewish Action.

Washington, D.C. — As morning arrived on Capitol Hill on Jan. 17, over 100 American Jews and Dreamers — legal residents of the United States under the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM) — gathered in the lobby of the Russell Senate Office Building. Organized by Bend The Arc Jewish Action organization, these protesters gathered to demand that Congress pass a clean Dream Act. By day’s end, 86 rabbis and Jewish community leaders were arrested.

Bend The Arc has partnered with the #LetMyPeopleStay movement, playing on the biblical phrase “let my people go,” found in Exodus 9:1, to call on Jewish Americans to fight for the rights of immigrants. Driven by this cause, these Jewish leaders joined together to protest the dismantling of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy and urge Congress to pass a clean DREAM Act to protect those left uncertain in the wake of DACA’s termination in Sept. 2017.

David Bocarsly, Community Liaison at the Office of Calif. State Senator Ben Allen, was among these protesters. He reflected his motivation, citing his “privilege to openly display my identity, while almost a million young Americans… are cast into the shadows. They live life in fear that one misstep will cause them to be sent to a country they’ve never known.”

Bocarsly wore a tallit as he was arrested on Capitol Hill. Photo courtesy of Bend the Arc Jewish Action.

“As I was getting arrested,” Bocarsly wrote “I looked up to the rotunda balcony at hundreds of DREAMers standing there, fists raised… with many tears in their eyes. I absorbed the song ‘olam chesed yibaneh,’ [which translates to] ‘we will build this world with love,’ echoing across the dome ceiling, sung by the brave Jews sitting [alongside] me on the floor as they too awaited handcuffs.”

Adina Alpert, Selah Program Manager at Bend The Arc, also participated in the protest and recalled a similarly moving experience. “The most incredible moment [from the protest] was when we walked into the rotunda, ready to show up for the Dreamers fighting for their lives, and found that they had come to show up for us. The reciprocity of solidarity in that space was enough to move me to tears and to remind me of what is at stake, for the Dreamers, for us, for our country.​ It showed me so clearly what is needed of us in this moment and I couldn’t be more proud to be showing up and continuing to have the Dreamers’ backs.”

Helping the stranger is central within Jewish ideology and practice. Numerous times in the Torah, Jews are instructed to guard strangers from oppression. Examples include “love [the stranger] as yourself,” Leviticus 19:34 and “befriend the stranger,” Deuteronomy 10:19 both followed by “for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” This concept of empathy-based protection of strangers has spanned throughout the ages, maintaining a crucial role within the Jewish community. In today’s context, “strangers” more directly translates to “newcomers” or “the oppressed”, specifically immigrants and refugees. Nearly unanimously, Jews rally around the cause of supporting these groups, recalling their own heritage and embracing the empathy that can spring from it.

Jewish leaders continue their song as Koach Baruch Frazier is arrested by D.C. police. Photo courtesy of Bend the Arc Jewish Action.

Thus, the Jewish response to President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric has been overwhelmingly negative, and the ever-present commitment to protecting the stranger has led Jews nationwide to spring into action to protect immigrants and protest the government’s lack of support for them.

Bocarsly called upon this sentiment, recalling “Jews know what it’s like to have people show up for us when our freedom is denied. I am proud we showed up for Dreamers. This is what my Judaism looks like”

“It is clear that this fight is far from over,” Alpert wrote. “The response from the immigrant youth… to [these] political maneuvers and negotiations [and] to attempts to delay a decision or combine it with xenophobic border security funding has been a resounding ‘NO.’ We will not stop until we pass a clean Dream Act.”

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