Why I was arrested last night

Photo courtesy of T’ruah

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam Matir Asurim.
Blessed is the Source of Freedom who makes the captive free.
— From Birchot HaShachar (morning blessings)

Last night, I was one of 19 rabbis, members of the rabbinic human rights group T’ruah, arrested in protest of the Executive Order that banned travel from seven Muslim countries. These countries include war-ridden places where innocent people are fleeing for their lives.

We were also making our voices heard against the attacks on Muslims and immigrants, both in action and in speech, that are happening in our country, and the policies we anticipate will be attempted to/put into place. The march leading up to our action brought over 200 clergy and laypeople together chanting songs of peace and hope down the streets of the Upper West Side.

I chose to be arrested because I believe we are living in a moment that demands response and requires moral courage. For me, that meant going outside my comfort zone to further a cause I believe is right.

I chose to be arrested because my family escaped oppression to create a better life in America and my husband Jon’s grandfather, still living thank God, was a survivor and a refugee. What would have happened if America closed their doors on them in their hour of need?

I chose to be arrested because I am a person of tremendous privilege — I know that my Muslim friends and neighbors, or immigrants who are not yet citizens or newly minted ones, and many others could not comfortably put their bodies in the fight, even if they might want to.

Civil disobedience is a political tactic. It is not the only one of course — but it is effective because it puts the issue in the press, on social media (which we know some in our government follow closely!) and in the public discourse.

As clergy, given some moral authority in our society, we have a special ability to help frame a “political issue” as a moral one. See below for links to the incredible press we received.

Last night, I also learned from one of my mentors Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum that civil disobedience is a spiritual practice. It is a practice of giving up one’s freedoms, even temporarily, for a cause greater than oneself. It felt prayerful and deep, especially as we shared songs and Torah throughout the 5 hours between arrest and release.

I am deeply grateful to T’ruah for organizing this effort and providing the support necessary to make this a smooth and important moment. I am also grateful to all the officers of the NYPD who were so kind and generous with us last night.

Rabbi Lauren

News Coverage:

Lauren Grabelle Herrmann

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Rabbi | Day job: SAJ —Judaism that Stands for All