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What is "Sanctuary"?


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

Thu, August 5 2021 27 Av 5781