Sign In Forgot Password

Immigrant Rights Team

Standing with our Immigrant Neighbors 

Our Mission  
The mission of the Immigrant Rights Team (IRT) is to advocate for, educate about and take action to support at-risk immigrants in our community. 

We advance our mission by: 

  • Providing a safety net by becoming a Sanctuary Congregation.
  • Advocating for our migrant population in partnership with other groups and working to change public policy by changing hearts and minds.
  • Accompanying individuals to court, attorney visits and helping with other needs.
  • Establishing the Immigrant Rights Legal Fund at Congregation Rodef Sholom to help Marin-based immigrants cover the costs of specific legal needs. 

Join us! Click here to learn more about IRT actions since its formation in 2016. 

Sign up to learn about special events and opportunities to support immigrant rights.
Email Janet Lipsey or call 415-990-3521.

How IRT Began

IRT (formerly called Synagogue as Sanctuary) came together in 2016 when Temple members wished to take substantive action in response to U.S. government threats to ramp up deportation of immigrants. In early 2017, our Board of Directors unanimously passed a resolution, crafted by the Immigrant Rights Team, to declare Congregation Rodef Sholom a “Sanctuary” congregation.

Among our actions since our formation are:

  • Accompanying individuals when needed, including driving to court or attorney visits, providing temporary housing, interacting on their behalf with officials, and assisting with other needs through Marin’s Rapid Response Network.
  • Demonstrating community support for immigrants detained by ICE through rallies, attending court hearings and mounting letter-writing campaigns. Such support has been influential to judges in granting release. Read the Marin IJ article here.
  • Organizing educational and inspirational events connecting congregants to their own immigration stories. To see a video of Manli Ho’s talk about how her father, often called the Chinese Schindler, saved Jews during the Holocaust, click here.
  • Partnering with Marin Interfaith Council, the Multicultural Center of Marin and other local organizations to provide education and information and to work together to benefit the immigrant community. On January 9, 2018, Reverend Deborah Lee from the Interfaith Movement For Human Integrity discussed the history of Sanctuary, the current climate for immigrants in California, and the work of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. Watch Reverend Lee's talk here.
  • Establishing the Congregation Rodef Sholom Immigrant Rights Legal Fund to support Marin-based immigrants who require and/or are seeking legal services related to permanent residency or lawful status. 100 percent of donations go directly to legal expenses. 
  • ​Sponsoring an educational trip to the U.S./Mexico border with Borderlinks to deepen our understanding of border politics, migrant justice and conditions for arriving immigrants. 

What does "Sanctuary" mean at Congregation Rodef Sholom?

In 2017, our Board of Directors unanimously passed a resolution to declare Congregation Rodef Sholom a “Sanctuary Synagogue,” making our synagogue the first sanctuary congregation in Marin county. The resolution was crafted and submitted by the Immigrant Rights Team (formerly known as the Synagogue as Sanctuary Committee) which is part of the larger Rodef Sholom Social Action Initiative. This communication has been prepared to explain the Board’s decision and to answer questions you may have. 

Sanctuary can take many forms. 
Involvement in Sanctuary can take place on many levels, moving from the broadest and longest-term to more immediate action. Currently, Sanctuary at Congregation Rodef Sholom does not include providing long-term shelter. However, our commitments to Sanctuary include fulfilling other levels of response including: 

  • Acting as an accompaniment partner in the courts and for family needs
  • Provide rapid response for emergency issues that arise
  • Advocate for local policy
  • Change federal public decisions by changing hearts and minds

Sanctuary is a Jewish Imperative. 
The immigrants’ fight is our fight. Our history of repeated expulsions, our own immigration status or that of members of our communities, and our experience of contemporary anti-Semitism that shares the same xenophobic roots, are only a few of the many reasons for those who live by Jewish values to heed the call of Torah. Whether we are moved by hakhnasat orchim (welcoming guests), or the teaching “You shall love the stranger as yourself for you were strangers in the land of Egypt,” the Torah is clear about our moral imperatives. Leviticus 19:34.

Does the Jewish Reform Movement support Sanctuary?
Yes. The URJ encourages congregations to protect undocumented immigrants, saying that Jewish teaching compels members to treat “strangers in our midst with justice and compassion.” Today, congregations involved in the Sanctuary movement are mobilizing to help the undocumented community. Congregation Rodef Sholom is taking a leadership role by being the first official Sanctuary congregation in Marin. Other Reform congregations in Northern California have also committed to sanctuary with many more considering declaring their commitment.

Why are we doing this now?
The need for Sanctuary is urgent. Sanctuary is emergency moral action in our own community. Undocumented immigrants are our neighbors. Today, as many as 11 million people living in the United States without legal status are currently and immediately at risk of discrimination, harassment, and deportation. These people may have committed no crime, lived here for years, paid taxes, and be parents of children who are citizens or have been brought here themselves as children,

Are we making a political statement?
Sanctuary isn’t about partisan politics — it’s about families, faith, and justice.

This isn’t about left or right, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. People who support Sanctuary are connected not by political affiliations or specific faith traditions, but through a shared moral responsibility to compassion and justice. Families being torn apart is morally wrong, so we take action together to stop it. That’s where faith comes in. Our faith calls us to welcome the stranger and care for the most vulnerable.

Is Sanctuary breaking the law?
There is a law against bringing in and harboring persons not authorized to be in the U.S. (INA Sec.274) While Sanctuary doesn’t bring people in, whether or not we are harboring someone is up for interpretation. Some courts have interpreted harboring to require concealment of a person. When we declare Sanctuary for an individual, we are bringing them into the light of the community, not concealing them in the dark of secrecy.

Are there any risks?
In the 1980s, a handful of clergy, nuns, and laymen were convicted in “The Sanctuary Trials” for their efforts on behalf of immigrants. Faith leaders today, including those in Marin, are working with legal teams to keep this from happening and to be aligned with local law enforcement.

Resources from Truah:

A Quickstart Guide for Sanctuary Synagogues 

Introduction to a Jewish Perspective on Sanctuary

Immigrant Rights Legal Fund

The Congregation Rodef Sholom Immigrant Rights Legal Fund was established in September 2019 to support Marin-based immigrants and their family members that require and/or are seeking legal services related to permanent residency or lawful status for themselves or their family members. 

These may include fees for obtaining United States citizenship, DACA applications, bonds in order to be released from detention by ICE, attorney fees, and other legal requirements. 

All donated funds will be used for direct legal expenses. Donations made to the fund are tax-deductible. 


Sanctuary Synagogue Board Resolution

Resolution of the Board of Directors of Congregation Rodef Sholom Affirming Congregational Solidarity with Undocumented Immigrants

WHEREAS the Torah teaches us that we cannot subvert the rights of the non-citizens among us because we ourselves know the pain and fear of being outsiders;

AND WHEREAS we have seen that calls for mass deportation of those who have sought shelter and protection in our country have heightened the occurrence of hate crimes and hate speech against immigrants;

AND WHEREAS such calls have left immigrant communities feeling attacked and dispossessed by a country that they have helped to build and sustain, and created such fear in their children that many cling to their parents or cry in class;

BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Directors of this Congregation, which represents a membership of over 1100 families, stands with our immigrant neighbors, and that we declare ourselves a Sanctuary Congregation;

AND BE IT ALSO RESOLVED that we join with affected immigrants currently living in uncertainty and fear and stand with them in opposing policy proposals that lead to the subversion of due process and the expansion of racial profiling, that we will support their leaders in the struggle against such efforts, that we will accompany families and individuals as they resist unlawful deportation and discriminatory laws, and that this Congregation authorizes its clergy and congregant communities to take necessary and appropriate actions consistent with this Resolution.

Dated this 1st day of June, 2017.

Hali Croner, President
Martin Konopken, 1st VP
Rachel Mercer, 2nd VP
Rebecca Lein, Treasurer
David Rudnick, Secretary
Susan Goldwasser, WRS President
Julia Dvorin
Debi Geller
Lani Gershik
Laurie Kimball
Brad Lakritz
Rob Leonard
Anna Lushtak
Jon Marker
Lisa Newmark
Lisa Pavlovsky
Ethan Schulman

Thu, July 18 2024 12 Tammuz 5784