Holding signs that said “#ClosetheCamps” and “Never Again Means Now,” about 250 people gathered in Lafayette Square on Sunday to protest America’s treatment of migrants. The rally, one of 60 across the country, was timed to coincide with the fast day of Tishah B’Av, which commemorates a number of Jewish tragedies throughout history, including the destruction of the first and second temples in Jerusalem.
Within sight of the White House, speaker Rabbi Eliana Fischel of Washington Hebrew Congregation drew a connection between Tishah B’Av and harsh treatment of undocumented people in the United States.
“Whatever our particular religious tradition is, we’ve come here today to mourn,” she said. “Our religious tradition tells us that sinat chinam, senseless hatred, led to the destruction of the Second Temple. We live today with sinat chinam, with people hating one another for no other reason other than they were born on different sides of a border.”
She continued, “We live today with sinat chinam institutionalized in our national policies. We stand together this afternoon in protest of blind hatred but more so in contemplation and vigil for an America that incites and capitalizes on this hate and injustice.”
Eight Washington-area congregations joined HIAS, National Council for Jewish Women, the Religious Action Center, Bend the Arc and several other Jewish organizations in organizing the rally that came less than a week after Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in Mississippi led to the arrest of about 700 undocumented people.
In Howard County, people gathered outside a migrant detention center.
In Lafayette Square, meanwhile, speakers called the arrests and detainment cruel and discriminatory.
“Here in front of the White House, we demand that this president hears us. We could still create a nation worthy of the people that live in it,” said Cantor Jason Kaufman, of Beth El Hebrew Congregation before leading a Tishah B’Av prayer.
Members of La ColectiVA, a social justice organization, shared their experiences as undocumented immigrants, and told of others who had been deported.
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win,” said Marian Almanza, of La ColectiVA, to cheers.
Many speakers used the phrase “Never Again,” a reference to preventing another Holocaust. “This must stop. And it is up to us to say ‘never again,’” said Amy Fischer, of Sanctuary DMV. “It happened before and, damn, it is happening now.”
For many at the rally, this was their latest round of protesting against the Trump administration.
“I come to the White House four or five times a week to protest the hatred,” said Marty Pearl.
At the end of the rally, several people blew shofarot.
The sound of the ram’s horn was to “to call out, to make our cries be known, to purge the souls of ourselves and God,” said Rabbi Esther Lederman of the Union for Reform Judaism.
Jim and Sherri Lieberman, members of Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, said it was their religious duty to accept immigrants.
“The Torah mentions helping strangers through hard times,” Jim Lieberman said. “This country is built on immigrants. Silence is inadequate. Doing nothing is inadequate. The problem is not going to go away.”