On Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012, members of JCUA’s Immigration Justice Action Team and JCUA staff lead an immigration justice workshop for youth and their parents at Congregation Etz Chaim in the Chicago suburb of Lombard. Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein, Development Coordinator at Universidad Popular and JCUA lay leader, writes about her experience planning and leading an interactive, engaging workshop that established the Jewish imperative to take action for immigration justice.
Youth Explore Intersection of Judaism and Immigration
By Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein
“Whom did you miss when you came to the United States?” asked a teenage girl to her friends. Approximately 60 teenagers, ages 14-16, and 40 parents from the Etz Chaim Sunday School program sat watching expectantly. “Mi abuelita (my grandmother),” responded one friend. “My best friend,” said another, wistfully.
This was the opening act of our immigration justice workshop for Etz Chaim. The teenagers were performers from Teatro Americano, a Latino youth theater group founded by the non-profit organization Latinos Progresando, based in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago.
The skits and monologues, all based on true stories, addressed a variety of topics related to the immigrant experience today: homesickness, border-crossing, language-learning, discrimination, fear, and many more.
When Etz Chaim, located in Lombard, Ill., first contacted JCUA to do a workshop about immigration and social justice, we (the Immigration Justice Action Team and staff) mulled over the best way to approach the topic. We wanted to convey the Jewish responsibility to advocate for immigrants, given our history and modern experience of immigration to the United States, and the Torah’s command to “welcome the stranger.”