Awake to Justice: Immigration Activism for Synagogues and Congregants

What This Calendar Can Help You Do

● Educate

  • There are many ways to educate your synagogue community about immigrants’ rights. From Hebrew School lessons to immigration shabbat services to materials for use around holidays, you’ll find many opportunities to increase your community’s awareness of the issues facing immigrants today.

● Donate

  • The immigrants whom HIAS serves have a variety of needs. By collecting and donating essential items, you’ll have a direct impact on immigrants in the Philadelphia area. You can also donate your time in a variety of capacities.

● Advocate

  • As constituents, you have power to influence your congressional representatives to support policies that support immigrants. In this calendar you’ll find ideas for a number of advocacy activities for individuals, small groups and large groups, from phone banking to legislative visits.

Year-round Efforts


Educate:

  • Dedicate a day of Hebrew School to immigration and the connection between immigration reform and Jewish values. link to lessons/curriculum
  • Organize an immigration Shabbat or text study. link to download
  • Collaborate with other local faith organizations to host an evening of interfaith immigration activities
  • Use our list of resources for children and adults to learn the stories of some immigrants. http://hiaspa.org/node/3071

Donate

Advocate

  • Create a media watch committee to respond to anti-immigrant sentiment (write op-eds, post on facebook, tweet, etc). Help people fulfill the Jewish values of welcoming the stranger and loving your neighbor by counteracting myths.
  • Organize a letter-writing campaign in your synagogue. Here is a resource with guidelines on how to write an effective letter to your representative:
  • Host a phone bank. HIAS PA partners with the Philadelphia Immigration and Citizenship Coalition to organize phone banks. Contact Philippe Weisz and we’ll help you set up the rest!

Efforts by Season

Spring
Push legislation before the upcoming midterm elections eclipse the attention of most legislators, and educate during your passover seder.

  • Organize a Legislative Visit
    This is the time to meet with your legislators. Representatives dedicate at least one week a month to constituent meetings. The most effective way to influence your congressman’s vote is to sit down with a small group of supporters and engage in direct advocacy. This resource will provide a guide to planning and engaging in a visit. 
     
  • Host an Interfaith Town Hall
    Host a forum in your synagogue. Invite your Representative to come speak and field questions regarding immigration reform. Learn about planning a town hall here.
     
  • Use the “Four Cups, Four Immigrants” haggadah supplement during your seder
    As you bless each cup of wine during your seder at home or at your synagogue, or even at an interfaith community seder, share the story of a different immigrant.

Summer
Volunteer for immigrants’ rights, learn about immigration history, and begin to prepare for election season.

  • Commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the M.S. St. Louis
    75 years ago, a ship from Hamburg carrying 938 passengers, almost all Jewish refugees, was turned away upon its arrival in the U.S. The ship returned to Europe and 254 of its passengers died in the Holocaust. Today, many immigrants in need are turned away from the United States. Consider holding a memorial service or incorporating mention of the M.S. St. Louis in a shabbat service.
     
  • Teach English to Immigrant
    Volunteer as an English teacher in Center City Philadelphia. Contact Ellen Polsky at the Nationalities Service Center: epolsky@nscphila.org; 215-609-1525
     
  • Learn about American Jewish Immigration History
    Have children interview relatives or neighbors who immigrated or whose parents immigrated. Write the stories and share with families in your synagogue. Learn more about previous generations of immigrants by visiting the National Museum of American Jewish History.
     
  • Volunteer with an Agency that Works with Immigrants and Refugees
    Take advantage of the extra daylight hours by volunteering in any number of capacities, from mentoring an immigrant or refugee to donating legal or medical services. Contact mmerlin@hiaspa.org or jantp@lcfsinpa.org to get started.

Fall
Educate voters, help immigrants and refugees start the school year out right, and advocate for just immigration reform.

  • Donate School Supplies
    When taking children to buy school supplies, buy an extra item or two to donate to a child in need. If Hebrew School is in session, have each class contribute to a backpack of supplies to donate.
     
  • Write an Op-Ed
    ith election day coming up, fall is the season to write an Op-Ed for your local paper. Dispel myths about immigrants and the proposed immigration legislation and call upon voters to choose representatives who will support fair and just immigration reform.
     
  • Register Voters
    Volunteer to do nonpartisan voter registration at a US citizenship ceremony in Center City  Philadelphia. Contact the Philadelphia Immigration and Citizenship Coalition at:(215) 832-0636 or admin@paimmigrant.org.
     
  • Host a Phone Bank
    Call members of your synagogue to advocate for immigration reform and ask congregants to vote for candidates who share your views.
     
  • Thanksgiving Education, Donation, and Advocacy
    • Volunteer or collect food for HIAS Pennsylvania's “Refugee Thanksgiving,” an annual celebration for refugees experiencing their first Thanksgiving in the USA. 
    • At your own Thanksgiving table, take a moment to remember immigrants separated from their family members.

Winter
As you gather with friends and family to celebrate the holidays and new year, take the opportunity to educate your community about immigration reform, and donate to those in need.

  • Donate clothing and bedding
    Help families in need by donating new or gently used warm clothing and bedding. Consider, either individually or with your synagogue, adopting a family for the holidays by purchasing gifts and food.
     
  • Celebrate Hanukkah with HIAS Pennsylvania’s “A Festival of Lights and Liberty” supplement
    In this supplement you’ll find stories of immigrants to share around the menorah, a prayer for the “lights of justice,” and more.
     
  • Host an Evening to Educate Your Community
    Partner with an organization like the New Sanctuary Movement. Contact 215-279-7060 or peter@sanctuaryphiladelphia.org, or HIAS Pennsylvania to bring in speakers to educate your synagogue about immigration reform and the situation of immigrants in the United States today.

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