Tucson Jews for Justice meet migrant crisis at southern border with action

Tucson Jews for Justice members and supporters ready to take donations to the Kino Border Initiative shelter in Nogales, Sonora, from left: Tony Zinman, Marty Johnston, Daniel Hernandez, Alma Hernandez, and Consuelo Hernandez. (Courtesy Tucson Jews for Justice)

What started as a 24-hour community drive on social media last week turned into a tikkun olam (repairing the world) mission for Tucson Jews for Justice, coinciding with World Refugee Day, June 20.

“It’s difficult to hear the news of what’s going on,” says Alma Hernandez, referring to the current national immigration issues on the U.S. southern border. With local attorney Tony Zinman, Hernandez is co-founder of Tucson Jews for Justice. She also is a Democratic candidate for Arizona State House of Representatives Legislative District 3, former coordinator for the Jewish Community Relations Council and a member of Congregation Chaverim, among many other community roles.

As a Mexican-Jew, Hernandez felt there are “things like this [where] we can actually make an impact.” Hernandez coordinated with the Kino Border Initiative non-profit that provides refuge to migrants, asylees and deportees trying legally to cross the border between Arizona and Sonora, Mexico.

From left, Marty Johnston, Tony Zinman, Consuelo Hernandez and Alma Hernandez [holding sign) with kids at the Kino Border Initiative shelter in Nogales, Sonora. [Courtesy Tucson Jews for Justice)

Taking to Twitter, an online donation account, and the Jews for Justice Facebook page, within 24 hours, she had garnered $1,400 and numerous items in donations from the local community, delivered to Congregation Or Chadash and the Jewish History Museum. “We filled five cars with donations of food and items the shelter needed. We’re a small but mighty group.”

Accompanying Hernandez and Zinman were her mother and sister, both named Consuelo, her father, Daniel, and community member Marty Johnston. Michael Shure, an i24NEWS reporter, flew in to document their 60-mile journey from Tucson across the border, posting his reportage online.

That coverage followed on the heels of two headlines last week from JTA news agency: “Meet the millennial Mexican-American Jewish woman running for office on the southern border,” a profile of Hernandez, and “Jewish activists are helping families separated at the border,” a round up story of Jewish efforts nationally, including quotes from Hernandez and Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. Those headlines appeared globally, including in Israel. The next day, the group was on their mission south.

Hernandez says it was coincidence the headlines collided with last week’s call to action. “I was thrilled that the community reached out but it wasn’t shocking to me at all.” Zinman adds, “It’s a natural response for any Jew.” Yet he calls it a life changing experience that puts our own problems into perspective. When the group showed up at the shelter, a newly donated refrigerator was sitting empty. “They had no food,” says Hernandez.

She highlighted the focus of the journey, which was to let the community across the border know the Jewish community is here and ready to respond in a crisis. “The immigration crisis has been going on for years,” said Hernandez. Separation of families at the border triggered this outreach. Hernandez says the outreach will continue, with another delivery coming as soon as next week while she works to establish more permanent online donation channels. Meanwhile, border initiative donations may be directed to the nonprofit shelter at www.kinoborderinitiative.org.

The JTA and i24NEWS coverage mentioned appears on the AJP website.