Ravi Ragbir, fearless and beloved leader of the New Sanctuary Coalition, was detained by U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) this morning despite months of protests and activism on his behalf.
Today we stand with him and so many others in our larger family who are victims of mean-spirited fear based anti immigration policies guided by the US administration in defiance of human decency, civic justice and the essence of all religious creeds.
Our people were once refugees, and our people still are.
Like Ravi and the people he has been fighting to protect, thousands seeking sanctuary and safety have found havens in countries once founded by refugees, now more prosperous than ever.
They fled earthquakes, famines, violence and civil war. They joined new homelands grateful and determined. They worked, loved, connected, and made a difference. Strangers, welcomed in strange lands, became neighbors.
But not for long. As 2018 began, Israel started deporting African asylum seekers by the hundreds, enacting racist and cruel measures.
The US Government announced this past week the end of sanctuary for 200,000 El Salvadorians, joining those from Haiti and Nicaragua, as well as so many other undocumented families torn apart. The fate of Dreamers born in this country are still on the line. Christian, Muslim and Jewish values of welcoming the stranger, of love and care, values at the core of these two nations, have been forgotten, discarded, and abused.
These weeks on the Jewish ritual calendar the saga of Exodus is read from Torah scrolls. We are reminded of the plight of our refugee ancestors, once welcomed as guests in prosperous Egypt and then demoted to the status of slaves. But not forever. Out of their plight came power, persistence and resistance. Leaders rose, and the Universe responded. The fear based abusive Pharaonic regime toppled shortly after. Egypt is gone but the Exodus saga is remembered and alive in our Bibles, gospel hymns, Passover tables and persistent hearts. This coming weekend we will mark the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who knew the potential of these scriptures to be sacred inspiration.
“Your time is up” tyrants, Oprah reminded us this week. Little consolation for the many displaced by these shameful, cruel, selfish, and near-sighted acts by Trump and Bibi, two pathetic men whose power and time will come down hard – just like Pharaoh. But let these Exodus memories be a reminder for us all to fight, to rise, to not wait for ten plagues or miracles, to never lose hope that justice will win and compassion will prevail over anyone who closes the gates of kindness in the faces of humanity.
Today we stand with Ravi and continue to resist and fight for the rights of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees here in NYC and all over the world. It is against our religion not to support refugees. It is in the spirit of our ancestors to not be silent in the face of oppression.
Join me and the Lab/Shul community this coming weekend, in holy spaces and on the streets, with Muslims, Christians, Jews and others, to pray, protest, feed the hungry, and stand together for justice and hope. See the picture below how you can add your voice to help Ravi and his family at this time.
We shall overcome.
– Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie