Shmuly and Barber

Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, left, and Dr. William J. Barber II at a march in Phoenix on Monday, July 26.

Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, founder of Arizona Jews for Justice, and six of the organization’s members joined Revs. Jesse Jackson, Dr. William J. Barber II and Transformative Justice Coalition President Barbara Arnwine in a march and sit-in at U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s Phoenix office on Monday, July 26.

Participants gathered at 9 a.m. in Kachina Park in an attempt to pressure the senator to help end the filibuster, pass voting and workers’ rights legislation and raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Yanklowitz was scheduled to be one of the speakers, but Phoenix police intercepted marchers before they arrived at the speaking portion of the event. Thirty people, including Jackson and Barber, were arrested.

Although the event didn’t come to its planned conclusion, Yanklowitz said it was still “a very powerful message to Sen. Sinema that interfaith coalitions want to see vulnerable communities protected.”

Eddie Chavez Calderon, AJJ’s campaign director, said he’s frustrated by the lack of progress from Sinema’s office. He had hoped she would show clear support for passing legislation that he believes would positively impact hundreds of thousands of families in Arizona and across the nation.

Right now, he sees things as “stagnant — not moving forwards and not moving backwards. It’s our job to shake that up and say we need policies to progress,” which is why he keeps showing up at protests like Monday’s.

And as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient, Chavez Calderon feels the lack of progress personally. “I’m still in the same status I was during the Obama administration,” he said. “It just sucks. We’re always pawns to be used when it’s convenient. Meanwhile we’re living a life of uncertainty.”

He hopes Monday’s event will be a wakeup call for Sinema and other politicians “to wake up and put communities first.”

Yanklowitz has worked with Barber and his Poor People’s Campaign in the past, and the two men are hoping to create a virtual learning program, which would benefit the community, said Yanklowitz.

“I think it’s crucial we partner with the broader social justice world and build interfaith relationships,” he said. “We have to be at the table, because it’s valuable in itself, and it gives us a chance to build bridges.”

Yanklowitz also said it was key to have a Jewish group represented at Monday’s action. JN