A Week of Action: Message from the Social Action Committee

MLKDear Friends,

I am outraged and saddened at the killing of George Floyd. On the news, I heard a young black man say that when he leaves the house in the morning, he never knows whether he will come back alive. I cannot imagine living with that reality for him or for his family.

Amidst this, I am proud of our state. In Newark, the police stood back and let their community protest peacefully. In Camden, police joined with their community to protest racism and police brutality.

Several groups in Montclair are collaborating to host activities for a week of action. Please consider joining in these events: Continue reading

Helping Myself by Helping Others

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It was the end of March. Except for some walks around the block, I hadn’t gone anywhere or even left the house for several weeks. And then I received an email from the County Freeholders — We Need Your Help! Support Toni’s Kitchen.

The email continued:  We urge you to support Toni’s Kitchen as they are being overwhelmed with the growing demands for their services. Toni’s Kitchen provides food and other critical services to those in the greater Montclair/Bloomfield Community. They are now providing groceries and fresh produce to students who receive free or reduced priced meals from the Montclair Public Schools as well as Senior Citizens and medically at risk residents.

I made a donation.

And then I signed up to help.  Continue reading

Shavuot Nature Wall

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Celebrate Beautiful Nature on Shavuot!

A Message From Rabbi Greenstein:

There is a wonderful custom of decorating synagogues and homes with flowers and leaves and pictures of nature on the holiday of Shavuot, the festival celebrating our receiving the Torah. While we are still not able to celebrate within the walls of our synagogue, we can create a wall of photos and images of nature’s beauty to enhance our joy.

Thank you to photographers in our community, Judith Antelman, Bruce Baff, Nancy Breslin, Aimee Brooks, Sarita Eisenberg, Aileen Grossberg, Rabbi Richard Hammerman, Laura Monka and Merrill Silver who have submitted their images in honor of Shavuot.

What a beautiful way to welcome our holiday! May we always take to heart the world’s great beauty!

view the gallery

Pesach Silver Linings

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In all other years, we would go to a family seder at my sister’s home and have a second seder with some family and some friends at our home. This year would be different.

We were still planning a family seder with my sister and brothers and their families … but we would not be together in the same house. We would still use the family haggadah that Lou and I put together almost 20 years ago and promised to update every year … but this year we would finally get around to changing it – keeping in all the essential rituals, eliminating many of the extra readings while adding in a few new ones that seemed especially peritnent to the current situation, and adding in questions (labeled as “Food for Thought”) to reflect on how the pandemic affected our perspective of the Passover story we read each year.

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Be Counted

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The Census is mandated every 10 years by the Constitution. It is intended to count every person residing in the United States, regardless of age, status or citizenship.

The federal government will allocate $675 billion dollars each year over the next 10 years. The Census affects how those funds get distributed among states to fund education, healthcare, food and nutrition, transportation, affordable housing, and other services. Census data is also used to redraw legislative districts and determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. On a local level, Census data is used to make decisions about projects and plan for the future.

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Building a Social Action Network at Shomrei

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Dear Friends,

Shomrei has a long history of social action that involves providing services to those in need. Our new Social Action Committee aims to expand Shomrei’s involvement in social action to include advocacy.

The focus will be on issues that affect our local community and state, starting with immigration. To that end, we made a proposal to the Board of Trustees to join the Montclair Sanctuary Alliance. That proposal was passed on December 9th.

Our next step is to create a Social Action Network. This is an email list that we will use to keep you apprised about efforts at Shomrei and in the larger community and about opportunities to be involved. Much like the Mensch Squad email that  posts opportunities for helping fellow Shomrei members, the Social Action Network email list will post opportunities to participate in advocacy efforts – for instance, by contacting elected officials and by showing up at rallies and Freeholders meetings. To join, go to: http://shomrei.org/list to join the list

We also need to form a steering committee to map out our goals and plan for educational programs. Steering committee members would be asked to attend regular meetings and to be personally active in some area of work on a consistent basis.

For more information, please contact email hidden; JavaScript is required or email hidden; JavaScript is required.

We look forward to joining with you in this endeavor.

Sarita & Audrey,
Co-chairpersons, Shomrei Social Action Committee

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:

email hidden; JavaScript is required or

email hidden; JavaScript is required

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.

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.”