The remarks below were shared by Sheila Katz at the Tisha B’av #CloseTheCamps Vigil on Sunday, August 11 in Washington, D.C. This action was sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women, the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, HIAS, United We Dream, and several other organizations.
Good afternoon. My name is Sheila Katz and I am the CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, a 125-year-old progressive social justice organization advocating on behalf of women, families, and children in the United States and Israel. Thank you for joining us today on Tisha B’av, a day of communal mourning, to call on our government to #CloseTheCamps.
Today, we join our voices with the voices of thousands of activists gathering at over 60 Close the Camps events in communities across the country. We have come together to commemorate Tisha B’Av, the darkest day on the Jewish calendar. We reflect on the destruction of the first and second temples of Jerusalem, the expulsion of the Jews from the Spanish empire, and several other major tragedies in Jewish history that have happened on this day.
Today, we not only mourn for our historic losses. We also mourn for all who are suffering under this administration’s inhumane and racist policies. Policies that endanger, imprison and deport immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers who are looking for safety and freedom in our borders.
We mourn the 24 immigrants who have died in ICE custody during this administration and the six children who were among them.
We mourn the parents who sit alone in camps after their children were ripped from their arms.
We mourn the tens of thousands of people held in cages that are designed for populations a fraction of their size.
We mourn tens of thousands of people who are denied food, water, healthcare and legal representation.
We mourn the pain of the women, children and LGBTQ individuals who have experienced sexual violence while in U.S. custody.
We mourn the humiliation of people being forced to drink water out of toilets and being denied basic hygiene products.
We mourn the lifetime trauma children will experience from watching their parents getting taken away by ICE or from finding out they’ve been taken while they were at school.
We mourn that this has happened on our watch.
Our nation is in a dark place. There is also hope. In the three week period of mourning leading up to Tisha B’av, the haftarot shares a promise of eventual redemption. But this redemption doesn’t just happen on it’s own. It requires action.
As Jews, we have a responsibility to welcome the stranger.
We have an obligation to care for and protect our neighbor.
Today, as we commemorate Tisha B’Av, we mourn — but we also act.
We demand cuts in funding to ICE and Customs and Border Protections, the agencies behind immigration detention and deportation.
We demand that Congress and this administration close the camps.
And we won’t stop until they listen.