There were many races and many outcomes on Tuesday. I’ll leave it to the pundits to make sense of it all. For now, we here at JCRC are celebrating the victory of #YesOn4 and the successful defense of Massachusetts’ Work and Family Mobility Law
This campaign will help to ensure safer roads for our Commonwealth and will uphold a common-sense law that has already been enacted in 17 other states and the District of Columbia. Passage of the bill, and the success this week, would not have happened without broad support from law enforcement leaders. Still, it is not lost on anyone that, as Jeff Jacoby observed last weekend, the fact that this law was under attack was about scapegoating immigrants.
The history of our Jewish community in this country has always been in part about the idea of building a nation that should be welcoming to immigrants, and about the hostility that we and others have experienced when coming here. As regular readers of this blog know, when those first Jews arrived in 1654, they were received by a hostile Governor Peter Stuyvesant, who called our ancestors “repugnant” and “vermin.” To this day there are public officials who follow in his footsteps, displaying open hostility to others arriving here, who may not be coming from the same nations their ancestors arrived from.
It is a matter of great pride to many in the Jewish community that, in the 19th century, in order to raise money for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, it was the Jewish poetess Emma Lazarus who famously penned The New Colossus and these words:
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”.
From the earliest years after JCRC's founding and the ‘organizing’ of our Jewish community in Boston in the 1940's, advocacy for refugees has been one of our top legislative priorities. In those first years our efforts were heavily focused on supporting arriving Holocaust refugees – and recognizing that the United States could have saved more of our people had this nation not closed its doors to immigrants like those on the St. Louis, even after the horrors of Kristallnacht (for which we marked the 78th anniversary this week) made evident the dire situation in Germany.
That commitment and advocacy to reflect a deeper and broader understanding of the promise of America to people around the world grew over the years. We and many of our member organizations have been active for decades advocating for pro-immigrant legislation and mobilizing our community in resettlement work for all new arrivals.
So it was hardly surprising when, in January 2017, at a time of rising anti-immigrant rhetoric and real threats to the safety and security of many who were already here, our community proudly came together with a unified and very public voice to say that "we must not close our doors.” We urged "our elected and appointed officials at all levels of government to do everything in their legal authority to protect our foreign-born neighbors."
In the years since, together with many of our members, our synagogues, our allies and our interfaith partners, we have built a robust network for action, including resettlement, accompaniment and legislative advocacy.
We, and I, are proud of that work. We’re proud to be a member of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), and of the Driving Families Forward coalition. We have been proud to mobilize on legislative priorities with them and with leaders on Beacon Hill including Sen. Jamie Eldridge, Rep. Liz Miranda, Rep. Ruth Balser (Safe Communities) and Sen. Brendan Crighton, Rep. Tricia Bouvier and Rep. Christine Barber (Work and Family Mobility).
We are proud of the role we played in the #YesOn4 effort; canvassing, phone banking, making the case to voters, and hosting educational events within our community.
This week was a victory. For #YesOn4. For safer roads. For the dignity of our neighbors. For the values we stand for.
And, there is still plenty more work to do. This week we are reaffirming what we said in 2017:
"We reject any effort to shut our nation’s doors on the most
vulnerable. We recommit ourselves to the work of protecting and advancing the dignity of all human beings and to preventing suffering in this world."
I hope that you will continue to be part of this work with us, and we thank you for your generous support.