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Rabbi Esther Lederman: Children belong in schools, not cages.

Rabbi Esther Lederman: Children belong in schools, not cages.

Rabbi Esther Lederman speaking on stage

In the Book of Jeremiah we read:
“A cry is heard in Ramah —
Wailing, bitter weeping.
Rachel weeping for her children.
She refuses to be comforted for her children, for they are no longer.”

God – I pray that we can love the child of the widow, of the orphan, of the stranger more than we love our walls.

These United States of America were supposed to have been built on an idea of freedom, and an attitude of abundance. We’ve become small and afraid, seeing scarcity everywhere we turn. But love is an abundant resource. Justice is an abundant resource. Love never runs out. Justice never runs out.

I’ve lost of track of how many times we've spoken out against the moral crimes committed by this administration and this White House against the most vulnerable in our midst, children escaping poverty, gang violence, and sexual predators.

But I’m not tired. We’re not tired. 

We can do this every day until every child is released from Homestead.

Homestead is the largest shelter for migrant children in the country. Away from their guardians and loved ones, the children inside Homestead are detained indefinitely. Forced to wake up at 6:00 a.m., they follow prison-like schedules. They receive inadequate, unregulated education. And in recent weeks, this government has cut funding for legal services, English classes, and time spent outside. Comprehensive Health Services, the private, for-profit company that runs the detention center, receives $750 per child per day — an incentive to detain the children for as long as possible.

Homestead is no kind of home for any child. Homestead must be shut down immediately.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement must not open similar emergency influx shelters in the future, like the one they just announced in Oklahoma, which is a former army base once used as an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Children belong in schools, not in cages.

The fifth commandment of the Hebrew Bible demands that we honor and respect our mothers and fathers. 

Is this honor –
Is this respect –
separating mothers and fathers from their children, breaking families apart?

In a harbor stands a woman, “'Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!' cries she with silent lips. 'Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

We say – Let them in.
Open up the gates of justice, of mercy, of love.
Give us the children, yearning to breathe free.


This post is adapted from remarks delivered at #MoralWitnessWednesday, an event that brought together over 350 faith leaders in Washington, DC on June 12, 2019. 

Rabbi Esther L. Lederman is the Union for Reform Judaism's director of congregational innovation and sits on the Central Conference of American Rabbis' task force on the experience of women in the rabbinate. She is a board member of from T’ruah, an organization that trains and mobilizes clergy and their communities to advance human rights in North America, Israel, and the occupied territories. 

Rabbi Esther L. Lederman

Published: 6/12/2019