I am grateful for the work of our Tikkun Olam team, led by Laurel Crown and other fabulous volunteers. We are making important progress in raising awareness of justice issues facing our community and beyond, stepping up to deal with them. Some highlights follow.
● Thanks to Noreen McGowan, we organized a direct service campaign, collecting school supplies for RefugeeOne and the refugees they are helping. The last of the supplies were delivered today.
● Thanks to Jay Rothenberg and the Religious Action Center-IL, we recruited a number of participants last Monday to phone the Governor Rauner’s office and urge his support of a number of key bills devoted to immigration reform: SB 34—the VOICES Act—which will help protect immigrant survivors of domestic abuse, violence, sexual assault and trafficking; SB 35—the Safe Zones Act—which will protect immigrant families from being torn apart at state-designated sensitive locations, such as schools, hospitals, and courthouses; and SB 3488—the No Registry Program Act—which will stand against IL participating in any registry program that would single out any group based on their national origin, religion. or other characteristics. A representative for the Governor said his office was inundated with calls.
● Last Thursday, I joined colleagues with the Syrian Faith Initiative, and we paid a visit to Senator Durbin. The purpose of our gathering was to help the Senator better understand the dire circumstances faced by the Syrian people: from the greatly shrinking number of resettled refugees to their forced and torture-filled return to Syria. This is among the greatest moral and humanitarian crises of our time. In a spirit of urgency, our team leader Dr. Zaher Sahloul writes: “People of faith have to speak out and to stay engaged. Policy makers will follow.” Invoking the powerful words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Dr. Sahloul adds: “It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, "Wait on time.” I said to Senator Durbin two things: 1) I feel like I have been one of the silent folk standing on the sidelines; and, 2) Jewish wisdom has taught me because we were once strangers in the land of Egypt, we know the heart of sojourners and must not stand idly by. I am glad to report that the Senator promised to call the Lebanese ambassador to address these issues and to work with his colleagues in the Senate on refugee resettlement.
● And, last but not least, thanks to Arlene Alpert-Mehlman and the Jewish Council of Urban Affairs, we are hosting a special program tomorrow night, Tuesday, August 14th at 7pm. We will learn about Chicago's special database which results in the arrests of many innocent persons. Arlene writes: “As Jews who have been put on lists and quotas throughout history, it behooves us to know that such practices are still going on for other ethnic groups in Chicago. Only when we are educated can we hope for social change and justice.”
To each and every volunteer who has participated, I say: “Kol ha-kavod! You have all my respect. We’ll continue to develop justice opportunities, and we encourage you to participate, be it by learning, by service, by activism, or some other way of engagement. Why not pursue justice as a way of preparing for the High Holy Days? Just like Uncle Sam says: “I want you!” And, in the spirit of Pirke Avot, the Wisdom of our Ancestors: “If not now, when.” (1:14)
May these days of Elul help us turn back to the very best of ourselves, and may we do our part to heal the world.
Make it a day of blessing and be a force for good!