Despite his support for Israel—which some see as a shield Donald Trump uses against accusations of anti-Semitism—progressive Jews are horrified by the president’s immigration policies, particularly those targeting undocumented immigrants. In the last month, thousands have taken to the streets, to detention centers, even to businesses they see as siding with the administration, to protest those policies. Many carry banners and chant “Never again is now,” in reference to the Holocaust.
In July, 1,000 people marched in downtown Boston, bringing rush-hour traffic to a standstill, to protest raids and deportations conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). There had been protests two days before at an immigration detention center in New Jersey, and throughout the month, additional demonstrations were staged in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, Buffalo, N.Y., and at ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C.
On Sunday, 44 people were arrested while occupying a New York City Amazon bookstore, according to local television station WPIX. New York was among 50 cities with groups protesting the mega-corporation’s cooperation with ICE, through its contracts providing cloud computing and other services that enable the government agency to track down undocumented immigrants. The protesters timed the event to coincide with Tisha B’Av, a Jewish holiday of mourning and fasting, tying a historical reason for mourning—the destruction of an important temple—to one that is all too current: the Trump administration’s draconian immigration policies.
Never Again is Now, the organization that convened the latest actions, in collaboration with like-minded organizations Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and IfNotNow, is not even two months old. It started with a Facebook post from Serena Adlerstein, a 25-year-old Michigan organizer for Movimiento Cosecha, an immigrant rights group. She asked if any of her Jewish friends were interested in protesting at an ICE detention center. A week later, 36 people were arrested at a New Jersey center, according to NJ.com.
“It was kind of just this offhand Facebook post … and then people starting commenting like, ‘Yes, but actually!’” Adlerstein told BuzzFeed in July. “I think we could all sense the political moment we were in, and we were like, ‘If we’re going to actually do this, we need to do an action fairly quickly.’” Never Again is Now organized online, using such chat programs as Slack to plan and execute protests, and crowd-funding platforms to raise money for those risking arrest.
Brad Lander, a member of the New York City Council, who was among those arrested Sunday, told 972+ Magazine that “the cries of the Jewish people, of our people, against the forms of oppression visited upon us through our migrations across Jewish history, require us to speak out about what’s being done now.”
The situation at the U.S.-Mexico border and in detention centers in America have drawn comparisons to concentration camps. As BuzzFeed’s Julia Reinstein notes, “The current immigration crisis—seeing people rounded up in cages, separated from their families, humiliated by guards, and deprived of food, water, and showers—evokes a particularly painful and frightening sense of déjà vu for many Jews.”
Without Amazon, ICE cannot round immigrants up to imprison them in concentration camps or deport them. #JewsAgainstICE will not stay silent while tech companies profit off of cruelty.#NeverAgainIsNow pic.twitter.com/dhRDkjSSP7
— Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (@JFREJNYC) August 11, 2019
Rabbi Stephanie Kolin, who leads Union Temple in Brooklyn, N.Y., told 972+ that the example of young, progressive Jews led her to join the protest. “It is inspiring to see that these young Jews have so integrated our responsibility to the other, to the vulnerable, to all people who are created in the image of God, that they’re willing to put their bodies on the line.”
Never Again is Now organizers say they’re just getting started.
While dozens in New York are arrested for shutting down Amazon’s store to demand they stop cooperating with ICE#JewsAgainstICE & allies risk arrest outside Howard County Detention Center in Baltimore.
— ✡️ Never Again Action ✡️ (@NeverAgainActn) August 11, 2019