‘Tis the Season

Hebrew clockI love this time of year and the changes and challenges it brings.

When you’re a child, you don’t notice the passing of time in the same way that you do as an adult. Don’t you remember those endless summers that seemed to stretch on forever? Now, summer seems to go by in a flash and I hardly ever accomplish what I had planned.

For someone most of whose life has been ruled by a school calendar, September is a beginning. By October, we were settled in.  Remember those new “school” shoes and clothes , yellow pencils, fresh notebooks?

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It’s Elul: Time to Think

elulAs we move through the month of Elul, we’re given the opportunity to reflect and prepare for the High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This is a time of contemplation.

This process can be difficult for many of us. We run from place to place, from errand to errand, our lives seemingly controlled by devices.  Taking the time to take stock, to slow down, to look inside ourselves seems nearly impossible.

Fortunately, many fine thinkers have provided avenues to help us with this process. Continue reading

Tension

nytimesSearching around for a topic for this week’s library column, I rejected books about Elul, the Hebrew month when we start the process of introspection leading up to the High Holidays. Even though the month is almost here, there is still time to consider appropriate books.

I thought about Tu B’Av, the special day-like a Jewish Valentine’s Day- that probably slipped by most of you. But it’s past. Maybe next year.

So I thought about current events and what I could rip from the front page of the newspaper or the lead story on the news.

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Jewish or Not – You decide

Jewish booksSo. ..what makes a book Jewish? Is it the author, the subject, the sensibilities of the book? Could it be the reader’s perception or something else entirely?

Frequently I ponder this question after I’ve been to the Association of Jewish Libraries conference where, among other topics, the issue of what makes a book Jewish almost always comes up.

Other times, as I choose books for the library, a new book will make me ask that question.

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Cool as a …

imagesMaybe you are some of the lucky ones who live in old houses but have air-conditioning. I’m not.

The last thing I want to do none of these beastly hot, humid days we’ve been having is to do REAL cooking.

Cucumbers seem to be the perfect main dish, accompaniment or ingredient for summer meals.

By definition, gazpacho is a cold tomato based Spanish-style soup made with vegetables and spices. But there’s no reason other vegetables can’t be adapted to the same type of soup. This cucumber gazpacho is refreshing and incredibly easy to make as are most recipes from Jamie Oliver. No cooking involved. Continue reading

Immigrant Action Meeting Follow-up

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A very productive meeting was held at Shomrei on Wednesday night (July 24). We primarily discussed the Essex County contract with ICE and how we can join forces with other houses of worship in the area to advocate for the best possible conditions for people being held in detention.

We also discussed establishing a social action committee at Shomrei. Stay tuned about next steps.
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Two meetings were held the following evening (Thursday July 25) in which Shomrei was very well represented. The first Audrey attended with the clergy at BK and Reverend Joel Hubbard with Freeholder Luciano, who seemed to be open to the abpve proposals.

IMG_6988This was followed by a very well attended Freeholder’s meeting open to the public in Livingston. The vast majority of public comments focused on the ICE contract, requests for meetings with Freeholders, objections to the ICE contract and advocacy for the proposals outlined below.

The goal is to have the Freeholders who have not met with religious and community members agree to do so in advance of a vote in September for the attached proposals.

As a next next, below is contact information and a script to reach out to those Freeholders who have not yet agreed to meet. It would be great if you send an email to these freeholders to keep the momentum going.

Thanks so very much and we will keep you updated as things progress.  Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Best,
Audrey and Sarita
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ACTION ITEM: Please contact these Freeholders

Rufus Johnson: email hidden; JavaScript is required
973-621-4483

Romaine Graham: email hidden; JavaScript is required
(973) 621-5680

Robert Mercado: email hidden; JavaScript is required
973-621-4477

SUGGESTED WORDING

To: Freeholder [INSERT NAME]

I’m an Essex County resident and I’m calling/writing to ask you to meet with the multi-faith Essex County clergy who have requested a meeting with you to discuss a civilian oversight board, a detainee advocate, universal legal representation for ICE detainees, and a responsible end to the business of incarcerating immigrants.

Thank you,
[INSERT YOUR NAME]

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PROPOSALS REGARDING IMMIGRANT DETENTION

Regarding the ICE contract, the following solutions are being proposed with the leadership of the ACLU of New Jersey and other faith based groups and the information below comes from BK’s immigration committee.

1) A Civilian Oversight Board:

Background: ECCF (Essex County Correctional Facility) failed a DHS inspection in June 2018; those findings, which included rotten food, an unattended exposed firearm, and mold growing on bathroom ceilings, were made public in February 2019. In a March 13, 2019 letter to the Freeholders, the NJCLU wrote that “meaningful civilian oversight and accountability are critical” to meeting the county’s obligation to protect “the safety, physical and mental health, and due process of those it confines.” While the county has taken action to remedy the problems cited in the earlier report, Essex County Correctional Facility was also found in violation of 2011 PBNDS (Performance-based National Detention Standards) in a June 3, 2019 OIG (Office of Inspector General, DHS) report. Many of the violations surrounded the use of solitary confinement.

2) A Detainee Advocate:

Background: Hudson County has taken a number of steps to remedy DHS violations, including creating a Detainee Advocate who reviews all grievances filed by ICE detainees. First Friends argues that this would be a meaningful improvement at ECCF. At Hudson County, this role is filled by Rosa Santana of First Friends. This position is especially crucial because according to Essex County staff, ECCF hasn’t met the standards for grievance boards and advocates outlined in the 2011 PBNDS.

3) Universal Legal Representation for Detainees:

Background: The Freeholders approved an additional $750,000 in funding for legal representation for ICE detainees in July 2019 and is exploring possible contractors for these services (SAFE and VERA). This is a great first step, but Make the Road NJ estimates that the true cost of legal representation for all detainees is $5 million. By the county’s own estimate, $750,000 will cover the cost of representing only 200 of the 850+ ICE detainees. The NJCLU wrote in a March letter to the Freeholders that “data from New York’s publicly funded universal representation program shows that success rates for program clients increased by 1100 percent over underrepresented cases.”

Fly Me to the Moon

moon1The Talmud tells us that the nations of the world count by the sun, but Israel counts by the moon. In fact, while the Israelites were still in Egypt, God commanded that the moon be sanctified.

The Jewish calendar is lunar, but as with many things, we Jews have improved upon the basic lunar calendar so that –as commanded- the holidays fall in the correct seasons.

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A Day to Celebrate

july4

No matter where you are on the political spectrum, July 4 is a holiday to both celebrate and even revere: celebrate for the present and revere for the promise which the holiday represents.

As Jews, we should hold the promise of Independence Day in special reverence. While Jews were not always treated equally in the colonies and the nascent nation, they were usually treated better than in the lands from which they came.

The streets may not have been paved with gold- as some rumors promised- but they were more often paved than not.
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