(This was delivered at the rally prior to a July 5, 2019, march in Washington, D.C., organized by CASA, an organization advocating for immigrant rights . The march began at Benjamin Banneker Park and continued to the headquarters of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where we sat down and blocked the street in front of the building for about a half-hour before disbanding, promising to return in later weeks. I was there with Jews United for Justice, a D.C. organization that works in coalition with CASA and other organizations representing marginalized groups.)
I’m Rabbi Jeremy Kridel; I serve the Machar congregation here in D.C., and I’m a leader with Jews United for Justice.
Yesterday was the Fourth of July. Today, we remind our government — our government, all of ours — that its actions make yesterday a farce.
George Washington, quoting the prophet Micah, wrote to American Jews, expressing his hope that all Americans would be able to sit under their vine and fig tree, and that no one would make them afraid (Mic. 4:4). Yet today, a day after the Fourth of July, we see our government doing just that — making our neighbors, our family members, and our friends afraid in their homes, at school, and at work.
And so we are here to demand that our government stop making people afraid. If the Declaration of Independence meant to ensure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, if our country is to be the beacon of freedom it claims to be, its first step is clear.
It must stop rounding up our friends, families, and neighbors from their homes, jobs, and schools.
ICE must stop.
As a Jew, and as a rabbi, I know that nothing could be more clear. My people’s history shows what comes when a government — any government — starts mass round-ups of those living in its borders. What starts with mass arrests leads to camps; and from there, darker things still. We’ve seen this before, and it’s a slippery slope.
There is still time to stop this slide. There is still time to be who we believe ourselves to be, to follow the words of the prophet Isaiah: to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty, and to loose the prisoner (Is. 61:1).
And it must begin here. We call upon our entire government to proclaim true liberty: to free the captive, to raise up the fallen, and to leave our friends, family, and neighbors unafraid, no matter where they are from.
May our leaders, in the words of Rabbi Louis Ginsberg, work faithfully for the public good, so that peace, tranquility, happiness and freedom will never depart from our land.
And may it start here: we call upon our government to live up to the principles it claims it is protecting.
Stop the roundups. Stop ICE.