By Maya Rosenberg
For those who celebrate Shabbat, Friday nights are filled with a routine of prayer, celebrating the end of the week and most importantly, food.
However, Hillel’s Immigration Justice Shabbat on Nov. 22 was not a typical Friday evening celebration. The Shabbat, part of the Global Justice Shabbat series which focuses on social justice and advocacy issues, brought both Jewish and non-Jewish perspectives to immigration justice.
“Hillel is a center for Jewish life on campus [and] whatever it is that Jews care about and want to do Jewishly, we want to help make that happen,” Annie Prusky, a fellow at Hillel and organizer of the event, said. “There are a lot of Jews who primarily express their Judaism through social justice and activism and political organizing.”
Representatives from student organizations, including UndocuTerps and Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society, as well as national groups such as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Never Again Action and the Religious Action Center, shared their approaches to immigration and asylum policy.
“It’s my first Shabbat, and I’m here to speak on behalf of [the Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society], and why immigration is important. What got me into [the Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society] in the first place is the intersectionality and solidarity of groups, and how important unity is,” Paula Molina Acosta, a senior women’s studies major, said.
For Molina Acosta, who serves as the president of PLUMAS, highlighting immigration issues at a Jewish event emphasized that it is “not just cool to work with other groups, but it is absolutely crucial [for change].”
Students and speakers sat together at tables organized around each group at the event. All around the room, pictures of protests and posters defining terms like the “Maryland Dream Act” and “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” lined the walls, providing attendees with knowledge they might not have had prior to the event.
Prusky said the event was geared both towards “Jews who primarily express their Judaism” through social justice and to “people who don’t primarily access Judaism that way but are interested in the topic and want to learn more.”
“I’ve never been to a Jewish social justice event that hasn’t been centered on Israel,” junior psychology and English major Paige Munshell said. “Social justice and advocacy are really important to me, and I think that fighting for justice is a huge part of Judaism, which is why I’m here.”
While the Immigration Justice Shabbat was the first Global Justice Shabbat of this semester, Global Justice Shabbats have been a part of Hillel’s programming in the past as a yearly event.
“But there are so many people who are interested in social justice and there’s so many issues that we can’t just do one issue each year,” Prusky said. “We thought we would see what it would be like to do with a Global Justice Shabbat in the fall.”
The combination of Jewish and non-Jewish viewpoints gave attendees a nuanced outlook on immigration justice and advocacy.
“A lot of people wonder why we as a religious denomination care about immigration,” Danny Cooper, the speaker and legislative assistant for the Religious Action Center, said.
“It’s because of those words over there,” Cooper said, pointing to a poster with a quote from the Torah, reading, “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress them, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”