By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders
It’s a story as old as the Bible, yet as new as yesterday’s headlines. It’s about the land of the free and the home of the brave. The Pilgrims, the Statue of Liberty… our past and our present.
Of course, I speak of those seeking sanctuary from oppression, violence or starvation. It’s about persons in dire need of a safe harbor, or possibly a single migrant family looking for a place to give birth to a child who would one day spark a great religion. It’s about the descendant of Irish immigrants fleeing famine who would be president. How different the world would be if the stable had been closed to outsiders or the border shut to the Irish.
Jewish people have a particular affinity for those in search of refuge since they were repeatedly driven from their homes by conquering armies in centuries past, or the pogroms of Russia, or most recently the Nazi onslaught that became the Holocaust. We have witnessed the tragic consequences when people are turned away because of their different religion or skin color or culture. It never ends well.
Most avert their attention from such desperation but some do not.
Our neighborhood congregation of East End Temple refuses to look the other way.
Theirs is an interesting history. Located at the corner of 23rd Street and Second Avenue for over three decades, the price of real estate forced the congregants from their house of worship. For many years, the East End Temple community moved from one venue to another, like their ancient forbearers, until settling into their permanent home on East 17th Street.
Now the Temple congregation under the leadership of Rabbi Josh Stanton has joined with our local Assemblyman, Harvey Epstein, taking up the cause of hundreds of children torn from their parents who sought freedom and safety in America, much like the Pilgrims 400 years ago. Together they are promoting state legislation entitled the “SCAR” Act (Separation of Children Accountability and Response).
This proposed law would require reporting of all migrant children who have been situated in this state by federal authorities.
If enacted, at least here in New York, children taken from their families would not be lost in the maze of bureaucracy. Rather, they would be tracked for as long as they remained in the custody of our state.
To learn about what you can do to help enact this measure into law, you can contact Assemblyman Epstein’s office at (212) 979-9696.
As the miracle of Hanukkah was recalled with the eight-day lighting of the menorah, and as the renewal of the Christmas season nears, East End Temple and Assemblyman Epstein invite us to give the gift of hope by ensuring that these displaced children are not forgotten or forever traumatized. With our help they can be rescued.
It’s what this season is all about. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?
And if we choose to care enough about the plight of these kids, they may one day say, “It’s a wonderful life.”