To the editor:
On Wednesday, Jan. 17, two Riverdalians — Sue Dodell and Danny Guenzburger — joined Jews from across the country in the Rotunda of the U.S. Senate for a sit-in and demonstration to support legislation to give “Dreamers” legal status.
Dreamers were brought to the United States illegally when they were children. The only country they have ever known is the United States, as they lived in their countries of origin for only the first few years of their lives.
They were schooled here, many now serve in the U.S. military. Some are still in college, and some are employed here in the United States. Some have children born here.
President Obama’s executive order permitted Dreamers to stay in the United States, but President Trump rescinded that order. As of this writing, the fate of the Dreamers is tied together with the government shutdown.
Some of the demonstrators sat in a circle in the Rotunda. They sang of hope, strength and protest — in English and in Hebrew. They linked arms. They prayed. They called out to all, “Let my people stay!” They knew they would be arrested.
Other demonstrators, both Jews and Dreamers, stood in the hallways leading to the Rotunda and in the balcony above, choosing to be supporters and not be arrested. Many were members of Bend the Arc, a progressive Jewish organization.
There were Jews of all denominations — Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Orthodox. Some wore prayer shawls, some wore kippot or yarmulkes. The oldest was 78. The youngest was 18.
Why would rabbis and leaders from more than a dozen Jewish organizations be willing to be arrested for the sake of others? Why? Because Jews were once strangers in a new land. Because our grandparents were immigrants. Because it is our moral imperative to fight hatred, xenophobia and racism.
Because, in the words of one of the women in last year’s Women’s March, “This is what I learned in Hebrew School.”
For these Jewish demonstrators, the passage of legislation to protect Dreamers is what Jews ought to do for our fellow Americans. Bend the Arc and other Jewish organizations do not seek to lead the way, but rather to follow the lead of immigrant groups like United We Dream and CASA.
At the end of the day of the demonstration, when the immigrant groups and the Jewish demonstrators came together to evaluate the action, the question was asked, “Why would you do this for us?”
Why? Because together, we are the country.
Deborah Schiavo, Sue Ellen Dodell, Danny Guenzburger
The authors are writing on behalf of Bend the Arc in Riverdale.
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