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Sanctuary - Rosh Hashanah 5780/2019 - Cindi Silverman

10/11/2019 09:27:54 AM


I begin with a story.

A woman, I will call her Sophia for her own privacy, came to the United States from a Central American country, after witnessing the death of family members and being threatened with her own life. She arrived with her husband and one son nearly thirty years ago. I don’t know how she arrived. I am not allowed to know that personal history. I do know that she lived quietly in the greater Boston area, raising two additional American-born children, and was employed until the day ICE arrived and arrested her, her husband and her foreign-born child.

Sophia’s husband and oldest son have been deported. She has received deportation orders as well. Sophia is anxious to stay in the US to support and raise her two American born sons, who have been living under the generosity of friends. She has an attorney working on her case, while the threat of deportation looms.

Sophia applied for Sanctuary.

As Jews at Congregation Beth Elohim, we know that our sanctuary is a place of comfort, and of peace. For many it is a place of worship, while for others it is a place of serenity and safety. In hundreds of faith-based organizations across the country, taking someone into Sanctuary means providing a home within the walls of their house of worship, which is one of the only buildings that ICE has never entered without a warrant. It means providing round-the-clock security for their guest, as they are called, and bearing witness to events as they unfold, if ICE were to arrive at any time.

Sophia has been living in Sanctuary, in a church in a nearby community for 17 months, while her attorney continues to work on her case. Her needs have been provided for by the congregation, but the round-the-clock security has been shared by nearly 400 volunteers from surrounding communities, who sign up for four-hour shifts, when they are able. There are currently 8 volunteers from Congregation Beth Elohim who participate in the program, including my husband Rick and me.

While this arrangement may feel like a prison of a different sort, living in Sanctuary has allowed Sophia to see her children regularly, have free reign of the interior of the church and offer her own skills as she is able, while learning new ones through the generosity of the volunteers.

It is not my place to judge Sophia or her situation. I cannot know the status of her case, which is for her protection. What I do know is that, I am aching to find a way to begin to repair the world. I watch in horror as families are being torn apart, programs like DACA and medical deferments are stripped away, racist rhetoric daily whips up certain citizens and our social fabric is feeling ripped apart.

With the arrival of the new year, I find myself taking stock of the bounties and freedoms with which I have been blessed. I am grateful to be a part of Congregation Beth Elohim, which, in the last few years has awakened in me a greater desire for Tikun Olam, taking steps however small, to bear witness to injustice and to make an effort to provide comfort and support whenever possible.

In the words of Rabbi Judith Schindler, “when the vision uttered in worship extends into civic engagement, Judaism becomes part of our daily lives, and healing continues beyond the hours of prayer”

Volunteering in Sanctuary, for me, means touching the life of one person, one lovely, quiet, gentle woman, and offering her comfort and hope, if only for a short time. Tikun Olam can begin with one person.

If you are interested in learning more about Sanctuary, or joining the group of volunteers, please feel free to be in touch with me, at any time. My contact information is included in the Na’Aseh column regularly.

I wish you all a peaceful and Happy New Year.

L’Shanah Tovah

Thu, February 22 2024 13 Adar I 5784