Rabbi Jay Weinstein and his daughter, Rabbi Jenn Weinstein, of Syosset’s Congregation Simchat HaLev, were among a dozen speakers at the Families Belong Together (Familias Unidas) Rally in Westbury on Saturday, June 30, where more than 400 demonstrators denounced the current administration’s immigration policies, demanded reunification of asylum-seeking families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border and called for an end to family detention.
Since May, more than 2,300 children were separated from their parents and more than 2,000 remain in separate detention facilities and shelters across the nation. Eight children were sent to MercyFirst in Syosset, an nonprofit human service agency that has an agreement with the federal government to care for unaccompanied minors.
The rabbis, clad in white to symbolize peace and unity, spoke on behalf of followers of their Jewish faith.
“I am coming to you today on this Holy Sabbath for I am taking my prayer to the streets,” Rabbi Jay Weinstein said. “We as a people have experienced persecution. We as a people have shared in being treated as ‘other.’ We as people have experienced prejudice and many of our people are immigrants too. What is happening today is inhumane.”
He continued, “God says we shall welcome the stranger for we too were strangers. In our Holy Torah it says do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.”
Weinstein then praised his family’s nanny, an undocumented immigrant 22 years ago and a United States citizen today.
Rabbi Jenn Weinstein spoke lovingly about the United States as a place where people can dream and find a better life. “We are a melting pot of a multitude of cultures,” she said. “Our founding fathers came here to escape religious persecution. Our Jewish ancestors came here for the same reason—each of them for a better life for their families, and generations to come. The United States of America has always been a place where people who seek asylum can come and have a safe haven.”
She continued, “The way families are being treated at our borders is unplanned, disorganized, inhumane, illegal and immoral. One verse central to the Jewish faith [is] you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The rabbi referred to several facts—that people come to this country illegally, that some people seeking asylum have been physically blocked from trying to enter the country and that the children being taken away from their families do not know if or when they will be reunited.
“This is kidnapping,” she said. “These children did nothing wrong. Where is our love for our neighbor? Where is our compassion? Where is the great hospitality that was taught by Abraham and Sarah in everybody’s Bible?”
More than 700 Families Belong Together events took place on Saturday, including Long Island rallies in Huntington, East Meadow, Great Neck, Rockville Centre, Lido Beach, Fire Island, Greenport and East Quogue.
Congregation Simchat HaLev hosted a prayer gathering called “Immigration and Borders: Embracing Human Dignity” on Sunday evening at Mid Island Y JCC in Plainview, where faith leaders offered prayers, a child psychologist discussed the traumatic effect of separation on children and an immigration lawyer discussed immigration issues. At this gathering, Legislator Arnold Drucker, Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia, Legislator Josh Lafazan and Assemblyman Charles Lavine announced a bipartisan effort to raise money for the immigrant children at MercyFirst.
Simchat HaLev is located at 421 Split Rock Rd. For more information, visit www.simchathalev.org.