It’s Friday night, close to sundown. Mothers and fathers gather their children to get them washed and dressed in their finest clothes.
On this night, they will be able to spend more time together and with their children than they have all week. Their tables on Shabbat will be full of many of their friends from where they used to live.
There is not a cell phone or television in sight, but no one thinks about that. All of their attention is focused on one another. No one is taking a single second for granted. Everyone present has one single thought — a prayer that can be read clearly in their eye — thanks to the Almighty that this night has finally come.
For this is the night they have wished for every morning. This will be the night they can rest, if only for a few hours. They will be able to forget their troubles as they look into the faces of their children and see God.
As they eat, they talk with their friends, they remind one another of the miracle God had performed for their people when He delivered them from a cruel government and cities filled with evil men that stole their children to sell into a life of slavery. These families are filled with light as they praise God for keeping their people safe on the impossibly long journey of thousands of miles to the promised land.
But these mothers and fathers are not Jewish. In fact, this is likely the first time any of them have ever met a Jew. They are the people of Mexico and Central America that arrived seeking asylum among the “infamous caravan.”
For months they have not been able to hold their children, shower, change their clothes, eat a hot meal or know freedom. They have been released from ICE custody with nothing but the clothes on their back, worn beyond repair. They have traversed thousands of miles to find safety from their corrupt governments, from cities filled with gangs that steal their daughters and sons and sell them into lives of sexual slavery.
These souls have known all ways humans inflict misery upon one another.
Just a few hours before this moment, neither the volunteers for Arizona Jews for Justice nor the families knew that they would be here. ICE gives the organizations that serve these families mere hours of notice; the families are given even less time to prepare. They are all weary and in varying states of illness.
On this Shabbat, these families will receive the first bit of kindness they have known inside of the borders of our country. Arizona Jews for Justice volunteers will set up an impromptu medical clinic with a translator. One an all are treated with respect.
The Jewish volunteers from Arizona Jews for Justice will treat infants and grandmothers, fevers and colds, minor sickness and life-threatening conditions. This Shabbat it is one young father and son that stand out. The father has a leg infection that is nearly septic. It is so advanced that the clinic staffed by Arizona Jews for Justice volunteers are unable to treat him. If this father is going to live, he must be seen in an emergency medical setting immediately.
Arizona Jews for Justice arranges for one of their volunteers to rush this father to a doctor and pay for his care, where he will be treated with strong antibiotics that will save his life. An Arizona Jews for Justice translator will be there every step up the way to advocate and give him agency.
This is not easy work. The only thing a volunteer can be sure of is that their heart will break. Some members offer to host a family for a night or two, others volunteer to make the families their first hot meal. Still more volunteers donate the over-the-counter medicines, toiletries or clothing that are so desperately needed.
Why do Jews who are members of Arizona Jews for Justice put themselves on the frontlines when they could easily pretend it’s someone else’s job, and pass the work onto another? It is precisely because they are Jews. Jews have always known that we must be on the frontlines of repairing the world and sharing the light of the Torah.
Please join us. JN
Milena Bucci is chair of the Arizona Jews for Justice Steering Committee. She can be reached at MillieAzJews4Justice@gmail.com.