Letter: Join clergy effort to help immigrants


To the editor:

Since the end of 2016, the Trump administration has acted aggressively toward the immigrant. Our country's assault on individuals and families over the last several years has been a storm whose effect we do not truly comprehend.

The conditions under which we have kept detainees is disgraceful. President Trump's recent threat to ramp up the deportation of families in the interior terrorizes immigrant communities, with direct consequences for children, youth, and families. In effect, this is version 2.0 of the family separation crisis.

As we have seen with other tactics the administration has tried, these raids present a threat to immigrant families directly, with ripples beyond. Researchers have shown that these tactics can have long-term harm to children's well-being. Studies show that children who witness their parents' arrest are more likely to suffer mental health and behavioral problems. Additionally, these raids place unnecessary challenges on our already overburdened community systems that serve immigrants.

As people of faith and conscience, we cannot stand idly by in the face of these threats. Our shared traditions direct us toward compassionate and careful action: In Deuteronomy we read God "upholds the cause of the orphan and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing. You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (10:18-19). Likewise, Jesus taught, "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me" (Matthew 25:35-36). To care for the stranger among us is not only the right thing to do; it is a sacred act.

We are animated by our traditions and energized by the actions of our own country's agents. We applaud those in our state legislature and those in Congress who put forward legislation to protect and provide for the immigrant. We call on our elected officials to continue their efforts.

We also asked: what can we do as a community in the Berkshires. We convened a group that is called Berkshire Aid and Support for the Immigrant Community (BASIC). BASIC is a network of Berkshire community leaders, clergy, representatives of the human service agencies, and concerned citizens, who meet monthly to share resources confront challenges for the immigrants among us. Since our inception in early 2017, we have established a network for emergency housing, strengthened our communications among human service agencies, and continue to work on initiatives that will enable the immigrant here among us to thrive. Everyone who comes to our meetings is doing important work to provide for the newcomer to our small community. Now, our task becomes more urgent.

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We are striving toward a vision of our Berkshires community in which all individuals are safe from harm, so all can find a path toward health and wholeness.

Rabbi Neil P.G. Hirsch,

Great Barrington

The Rev. Dr. John A. Nelson,


The letter was also signed by the following: Ilana Steinhauer, Sheffield; The Rev. Liz Goodman, Lenox; Rabbi Jodie Gordon, Lee; The Rev. Jill Graham, Sheffield; Rabbi Liz P.G. Hirsch, Great Barrington; The Rev. Joel Huntington, Pittsfield; The Rev. Janet Whaley Zimmerman, Great Barrington; Ed Abrahams, Great Barrington; Denyse Adler, Otis; Harold Adler, Otis; Dr. Barbara Barak, Great Barrington; Stephanie Blumenthal, Sheffield;

Toni Buckley, Pittsfield; Estervina Davis, Pittsfield; Susan Ebitz, Otis; Gail Grollman, Great Barrington; Drew Herzig, Pittsfield; Elihu Katzman, Southfield; Marilyn Katzman, Southfield; Jeff Lowenstein, Housatonic; Becky Meier, Canaan, N.Y.; Douglas B. Mishkin, Esq. Egremont; Katie Race, Egremont; Gladis E Rave, Great Barrington; Joanne Rogovin, Egremont; Eve Schatz, Esq. Great Barrington; Lia Spiliotes, Great Barrington; Ana Suffish, Pittsfield; Gwendolyn VanSant, Great Barrington; Jennifer Vrabel; Michael Wise, Great Barrington.


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