Social Action Committee Info

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Shomrei Social Action Committee
The Social Action Committee, co-chaired by Sarita Eisenberg and Audrey Levitin, seeks to apply a Jewish understanding of “repairing the world” to issues of our time. As we remember from the wisdom of previous generations of Jews: “It is not our responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but we are not free to desist from it either.” The committee seeks to help the congregation at large engage with our broken world by finding and recognizing issues and recommending specific actions we can take.

for more info contact:

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Selichot Program: The Exoneration of Huwe Burton, Sat, Sep 21, 2019, 8:30pm, Free

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Selichot Program
In the spirit of forgiveness and renewal, the speaker for Shomrei’s Selichot program is Huwe Burton, who was exonerated in the Bronx 30 years after he was wrongfully convicted of his mother’s murder. Huwe’s conviction was overturned after the Bronx Conviction Integrity Unit determined that Huwe gave a false confession that was the product of psychologically coercive techniques used by detectives. Additionally, the same detectives who elicited Huwe’s false confession also obtained false confessions from two other individuals three months earlier. The reinvestigation also uncovered new evidence that strongly pointed toward an alternative suspect. Today Huwe is rebuilding his life and is dedicated to helping others who have experienced grave injustice.

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Immigrant Action Update: A Call to Action

MSA leaders with Mikie Sherrill

On a recent Wednesday morning, Rabbi Greenstein, Audrey Levitin and I joined the Montclair Sanctuary Alliance (MSA) in a meeting with Representative Mikie Sherrill, who represents the 11th Congressional District including part of Montclair. The overall message was that people in her state are eager to welcome immigrants as we have been doing for decades. MSA members discussed several issues with Representative Sherrill about refugee resettlement, asylum seekers, and conditions in the detention centers.

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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.”

Nick Levitin: This Year’s Honoree in Three Acts

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For Nick Levitin, the true meaning of life lies in service—to serve people and God. His passion for people and his commitment to service are the bookends of his journey, and they created the groundwork on which he served. As a kid growing up on Long Island in a secular family with no Jewish education, serving as President of not one but two synagogues was never part of his childhood game plan. He did not join a synagogue until he was 39. But first, he would follow his dreams onto the stage. Continue reading

Audrey Levitin: Families Belong Together

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image courtesy of ACLU

Around the time when news about the crisis on the border emerged, I was on my morning train into the City. It was crowded and coming up the aisle was a young mother and a grandmother, struggling with a stroller and a toddler. They were Spanish speaking. The woman sitting next to me offered the mom her seat and she and the toddler sat next to me. The boy sat on his mother’s lap and I was able to take him in. He was about 2 years old, with chubby cheeks, big brown eyes and at the age where everything about him is adorable. He was pointing out the window with great enthusiasm at everything we passed. The other commuters and I looked up from our phones and we shared a few minutes of pleasure watching this child’s innocent delight at simply being on the train.

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