As we enter the high holidays, I am happy to provide an update about Essex Together, a great social action program I invite you to learn about and participate in: Continue reading
I am happy to share a victory achieved by Essex Together, just two months into its founding.
As you may recall, JerseyCity together had significant progress this past spring in the elimination of unnecessary and unfair fines, fees and outstanding warrants incurred by individuals who recently left prison or are currently incarcerated. Continue reading
I am happy to report that Shomrei is now a founding member of Essex Together, joining 10 other faith based and nonprofit organizations working to bring about change in the County. The launch event was held on May 27th at Bethany Baptist Church in Newark and was a a life affirming night of music, presentations and sharing.
“Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” Dr. Martin Luther King.
When I walk into Shomrei, enter the lobby and climb the stairs for services, I have a “life is good” kind of feeling, That powerful sense of connection is strengthened when I volunteer and one of my favorite forms of volunteering is ushering. I get to say hello to people I know, people I haven’t seen in a while, and introduce myself to people I don’t know. The experience of being connected is joyous. Continue reading
When the pandemic began, I missed the office, I missed restaurants, I missed travel, but most of all I missed synagogue on Shabbat. There is something deeply comforting about seeing the same people at the same time, in the same place, in the same seats each week. I especially love being at synagogue on a snowy winter day. During kiddish I would sit with members of our congregation, and watch snow fall through the large widows in our social hall while eating bagels and lox, salad, and cookies. It is an “all is right with the world” experience. Continue reading
I hope everyone is having a great holiday season. I am writing to let you know about two social actions you can take to help immigrants in Essex County.
1) Join Faith in Essex on 10/23 at 7pm at the Newark Hall of Records for the Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting to insist on ACLU-endorsed civilian oversight for Essex County Correctional Facility. This is a very important meeting where I believe the ordinance for the civilian oversight board that the ACLU is recommending will be introduced.
2) Send the email below to County Executive Joseph D. Vincenzo and the Board of Chosen Freeholders. Continue reading
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.”
Last Shabbat I had the privilege to make a presentation through the @nourish series about the Innocence Project., I was joined by two extraordinary men, Rodney Roberts and Huwe Burton both of whom spent years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit Thanks so much to all who took part.
Some of you asked how you can help. Continue reading
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.