People beat on drums and shouted “Close the camps!” outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in San Francisco last week, one of dozens of gatherings being held nationwide every day in August during the “Month of Momentum: 30 Days of Actions to Close the Camps.”
“We put the call out and immediately people responded,” said community organizer Penny Rosenwasser about the series of protests to fight family separations and migrant detention centers on the U.S.-Mexico border and elsewhere around the country. A variety of speakers are being invited each day in August to share their experiences, including religious leaders, activists, attorneys, educators, public health advocates and families affected by the issue.
On Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 10 and 11, Jewish groups around the country — T’ruah, Bend the Arc, HIAS, J Street, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the National Council of Jewish Women and Torah Trumps Hate — will hold Tisha B’Av vigils at ICE offices. In the Bay Area, vigils will be held in San Francisco, Palo Alto and San Jose. Tisha B’Av primarily commemorates the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, but is also used as an occasion for mourning a wide range of tragedies.
Jasmine Alston, who attended the Aug. 1 protest with her toddler in downtown San Francisco, said she is horrified by how children are being treated in the detention camps.
“I have a 2-year-old daughter, and I can’t imagine her being taken away from me,” she said. “The trauma that would cause me would be horrible, but the trauma that would cause her at such a tender age is life-changing.”
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, director of Shomeret Shalom Rabbinic School and education director of Chochmat HaLev synagogue in Berkeley, urged protesters to recognize and “atone” for the deep-seated legacy of discrimination in America, citing climate change, the genocide of Native Americans and the rejection of Jewish immigrants escaping the Holocaust.
“In 1939, the St. Louis [ship] sat outside the coast of Cuba with 900 Jewish people trying to get into the United States to flee the active genocide,” Gottlieb said. “The entire world turned away. This is the situation we are in now.”