Submitted by Temple Shalom Emeth

Bedford’s Buffie and Dean Groves performed at the recent coffeehouse – Courtesy image (c) Nancy Daugherty, 2017 all rights reserved

Temple Shalom Emeth’s Social Justice Committee raised $2400 last week to benefit three organizations which provide support to immigrants and their families.

The Sanctuary Program at the First Parish Bedford Unitarian Universalist Church, the American Civil Liberties Union/Massachusetts (ACLU), and the family of Francisco Rodriguez will be the recipients of the funds. Each will receive $800.

The money was raised at an Interfaith Coffeehouse for Conscience attended by more than 100 people Nov. 4 at the temple.   The Social Justice Committee planned the event in connection with its goal to raise awareness about various social issues facing Jews and all Americans today.

Social Justice Committee Chair Phyllis Neufeld said last week the coffeehouse audience “was filled with a diversity of religion, cultures, and like-mindedness to help those immigrants who are in danger of losing everything with the current immigration policies.”

She added, “We are all working for the same goal—fairness and justice for our immigrants, giving all of us who were there, a way to help. …We are all brothers and sisters in this fight.”

Vito Lamura, a co-coordinator for the First Parish Bedford Church Sanctuary Program, said last week, “The Coffeehouse for Conscience was a perfect evening.  There was wonderful entertainment, songs with a message, and friendly people. The causes were the best.”

Others described the evening as “magical,” and “inspiring.”

Francisco Rodriguez, an MIT custodian, who came to this country 10 years ago, is facing deportation back to his native country, El Salvador, after being granted stays of removal for four years. He was arrested on July 13 and brought to and detained at the ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) office in Burlington, after ICE denied to renew his temporary authorization to stay in this country and ordered him to return to El Salvador.

In his home country, he was a technician at an engineering firm and owned a car wash.  He fled El Salvador, fearing for his life after a colleague was murdered by gang members. He applied for asylum in the United States, was denied, but was granted stays of removal several times.

Besides working at MIT, Rodriguez operates a carpet cleaning business and is active in his union, his children’s school, and his church.

Francisco’s mother, Jessi Rodriguez, and his daughter, Mellanie Rodriguez, attended last week’s coffeehouse with Lily Huang of Massachusetts Jobs with Justice and thanked everyone for supporting their family.  According to Huang, Jessi is a legal permanent resident and will apply for U.S. citizenship next year.

Huang said last week that Rodriguez is awaiting a Board of Immigration appeals decision to re-open his immigration case.  He has been held at the Suffolk Detention Center for more than three months.

Donations for the Rodriguez family can be sent to Mass. Jobs With Justice, c/o Lily Huang, 375 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 02130.

Bedford’s Unitarian Universalist Church works to protect immigrants facing deportation by providing a sanctuary.  They recently provided sanctuary for a man from Brazil who faced deportation but received a stay only after a short time at the church.

The ACLU defends and preserves individual rights and liberties guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

When established this past summer, the temple’s Social Justice Committee wrote in its mission statement that it exists “to raise awareness… and to collaboratively help build a society where social, economic, and environmental justice prevail.  We seek to educate build a diverse community of activists, and reach out to those in our area who experience inequality or bigotry.”

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