Showing posts from July, 2018

Political Civility: Rethinking Bar Kamtza

After Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a Virginia restaurant earlier this month, I was asked: Is there any classical Jewish parallel to such an incident? I responded that a close parallel may be a story that is well-known to many Jews, especially at this time of year. The Talmud relates that the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman Empire as the culmination of a series of tragic incidents that all began with an incident at a party. According to the Talmud: A certain man had a friend named Kamtza and an enemy named Bar Kamtza. He once made a party and said to his servant, "Go and bring Kamtza." However, the servant got confused with the similar names and made the mistake of bringing Bar Kamtza. (In a study group I led this month, someone quipped: “That’s like if I wanted to invite Sarah Huckabee Sanders to my party and I invited Bernie Sanders by mistake.”) When the host found him there, he said, "You are my enemy!” [alternate transl

I never thought I would witness a mass trial in the United States (trip to Laredo TX, part 3)

Monday July 9, 2018: I have no photos of the mass trial we saw, as photos are illegal in the courtroom, but this (illegally taken) photo published in June 2018 in various news publications accurately reflects the courtroom scene that we witnessed on July 9 in Laredo.  See  On Monday morning, our group went to Federal Court in  Laredo  TX to observe immigration cases. I have no photos of this because it is illegal to take photos in the courtroom, but please look at this (illegally taken) photo and article - photo-shows-alleged-37-illegal -immigrants-at-mass-trial- 2018-6  - , as it basically accurately represents what we saw: a group of more than 70 defendants in a mass trial for illegal border crossing. The first thing the judge had to do was arrange the defendants in the courtroom in rows so that the taller

Detention centers, religious leaders, immigrants and asylees ((trip to Laredo TX, part 2)

Part 2:   Sun July 8 Photos from the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. This is the largest family detention center in the US, with room for 2400 detainees. ‘Family residential’ is basically a euphemism for the detention of women and children. We were not allowed to enter (we did not expect to). One of the leaders of our group, however, is an immigration attorney who has various clients who have claimed asylum status and are now detained at Dilley. Mothers and children are d etained together while they await their hearings to determine if they meet the criteria for asylum. The attorney in our group noted that increasingly, these hearings take place by video, with the asylum seeker in the detention center, the judge in another location, the attorneys in yet additional locations, and translators on the phone. She suggested that the overall effect of this is that the hearings are chaotic and the judges are then less inclined to regard the asylum seekers as tr

Resilience in the face of tragedy: my visit to Sutherland Springs, Texas (Texas trip part 1)

My next several posts will describe my trip to Texas in July 2018 to learn more about the current immigration crisis and some other issues.  Part 1:  Sun July 8 I am spending today and tomorrow in Texas, visiting sites in the   Laredo   area that are connected to the current immigration crisis. I am grateful to my friend and colleague Rabbi Neil Blumofe of the Jewish community of Austin for inviting me to participate in this group with members of his community and some other visitors from out of state - and so grateful to the organizers of the trip. Our first stop, however, was the Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX - the site of the horrific massacre last fall in which 26 of the members of their community were murdered during a church service - a huge percentage of this small community. (The total population of Sutherland Springs is about 500 people.). We were guests of the pastor, Rev. Frank Pomeroy. He and his wife were out of town on the day of the massacre, b