The Shutdown of Homestead Shows our Goals are Achievable

August 13, 2019Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner

To my Reform Jewish community, 

Just days ago, Homestead detention center, the only private, for-profit detention center housing immigrant children, shut its doors. While we know that our work to ensure the just treatment of migrants is far from over, make no mistake: the closure of Homestead is a victory for children, it’s a victory for immigrants, and it’s a powerful display of what activism motivated by enduring Jewish values can accomplish. Thank you. 

For the past year, you and other Reform Jews in south Florida have organized and mobilized to shut down Homestead detention center. Miami-area Reform synagogues Temple Beth Am, Temple Beth Sholom, Temple Israel, and Temple Judea came together in coalition with the Florida Immigration Coalition, American Friends Service Committee and other interfaith partners to demonstrate a unified, unequivocal faith voice against separating families and the detention of children.  

This group of Reform Jewish leaders of which you were a key part held vigils, attended marches, educated congresspeople and presidential candidates on the horrors of Homestead, and ultimately created an immigrant justice task force that is now a resource and example for the entire Movement.  

Homestead used a loophole as a federal contractor to skirt rules on the treatment of immigrant children, in many cases leaving children without access to hygiene, space to sleep, physical contact, or news about their families. In other words, this facility was one of the most egregious examples of the federal government’s cruel and inhumane family separation and child detention policy. 

From the bottom of my heart, I wish a kol hakavod to you and all the clergy and lay leaders who, after recognizing an atrocity in their own backyard, rose up to put an end to it. This is how we repair our world—together, across lines of difference, and with moral purpose. 

The RAC is proud to have supported you in this campaign and help bring the Movement together in strength. We will continue to follow your example, partnering with immigrant justice activists across the country. The shutdown of Homestead shows our goals are achievable with hard work and clarity of purpose. Onward. 



Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner 

Related Posts

A Message of Support

While we recognize that the deep conflict between Israelis and Palestinians will not be resolved over the summer, we believe that come the fall, college campuses must once again be safe for all students - and this includes Jewish students living their Jewish commitments openly and proudly.