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.
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.
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.
This 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.
Audrey and Sarita
ACTION ITEM: Please contact these Freeholders
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.
[INSERT YOUR NAME]
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.”
From Captain Lynne Kurzweil:
On a balmy spring evening we welcomed 24 grateful guests to the Carol Starr MESH Cafe at Shomrei. We also provided 2 takeout meals. The top notch team of Steindel, Eisenberg and Hammerman was on board with Sarah and Sarita preparing a delicious and nutritious meal assisted by Charles and Lou who ably performed numerous tasks including Lou’s stellar pot, pan, dish and utensil washing. We had a new helper tonight. Sarah, the young daughter of our custodian Kevin, pitched in with plating food and serving. She was a big help! Continue reading
From Captain Linda Ariel:
It was a lively evening at the Carol Starr MESH Cafe at Shomrei. It was a warm sunny evening, and the days were surely getting longer. We hosted 24 guests and were able to send four additional lucky people home with dinner. Sarita Eisenberg was top chef with the many able assistants, Chaya Kotlowitz, Charles Steindel, and Sarah Steindel ably preparing a delicious and colorful feast. Jonah and Madeline were the teen volunteers who did anything and everything that was needed to help. Lou Hammerman pitched in as both a server and a pot washer par excellence.
Report from Captain Sarita Eisenberg:
The kitchen stayed cool at the MESH Café on Tuesday as we served a dinner of mostly leftovers, allowing Chef Lynne Kurzweill to wear seasonable appropriate long sleeves. We served 24 guests and prepared four takeaway meals.
The meal started with a freshly made tomato vegetable soup – good to the last drop, with not a smidge leftover. That was followed by leftovers from the Women’s Seder on Sunday: a kale salad with apples, craisins, and roasted pecans plus a touch of mango salsa to add sweetness; salmon topped with a horseradish crust and accompanied by roasted grape tomatoes; and a quinoa vegetable salad.
Report from Captain Linda Ariel:
With the days lengthening and the temperatures still fluctuating in early spring, we hosted twenty-four guests with three additional people who were fortunate to take away food, since there was limited space in the cafe. Sarita Eisenberg and Sarah Steindel were the chefs for the evening and were assisted by Susan Rosenblatt and Lou Hammerman as sous chefs, servers, and cleanup crew. Amalia, Noah, and Orly were teen helpers who assisted in every task of the evening. The MESH staff of Adrienne, Bonny and Joe pitched in as they always do with their expertise and familiarity with many of our guests. Continue reading
What an amazing weekend it was with our guest, Joey Weisenberg. A highlight for me was towards the end of services on Saturday, when Joey invited us to gather round him for Musaf. To make room, we shifted the bima and moved the chairs aside. Envision the people, after moving through the parted Red Sea and gathering on the far bank, singing their praises and gratitude. Now come one step closer, he coaxed us. Now come even one more step closer. And so we stood shoulder to shoulder. Continue reading
Report from Captain Linda Ariel:
The Carol Starr MESH Cafe welcomed twenty-four guest on this cold wintry evening. Sarita Eisenberg and Sarah Steindel were co-chefs and created a delicious and generous repast, some of which was re-purposed from the Honor Night dinner for Nick Levitin. The menu included appetizers of carrot salad, couscous, and cucumber salad with cheese and crackers on the side, the main course of middle eastern fish stew, baked salmon, roasted broccoli, rice, bread and butter, and finally fruit salad and cookies as dessert.
On a warm and humid evening, we welcomed 24 guests for a sumptuous meal consisting of a green salad with buttered challah on the side, Moroccan baked salmon with rice and lentils and roasted broccoli and carrots, and a dessert of fruit salad, cookies, and chocolate cake. Our chefs extraordinaires were Sarita Eisenberg and Sara Steindel with assistant chefs of Lou Hammerman and Charles Steindel. Susan Rosenblatt and Linda Ariel pitched in as well with the preparation of the many dishes. Continue reading
This past Shabbat, September 22, 2018, we were honored to welcome to Shomrei Dr. Gwen Parker Ames, Executive Director of MESH, as our @nourish speaker. Dr. Ames is Dean of Student Success at Nyack College, Adjunct Professor in Family and Child Studies at Montclair State University and Chaplain Educator at Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital. She is also a licensed staff minister at St. Paul Baptist Church.