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On border issues, Jewish values spur community work

Jewish community members rally in support of humanitarian Scott Warren on Nov. 12, the opening day of his retrial at the federal courthouse in Tucson. Those in attendance included Rabbi Avi Alpert, Rabbi Thomas Louchheim, Jewish Community Relations Council Chair Mo Goldman, Jewish History Museum Executive Director Bryan Davis, and JHM board member Eric Schindler. Photo: Stephen Shawl

A collaborative Jewish community initiative that sprang from the Oct. 24 day of a learning journey to the U.S.-Mexico border at Nogales, Arizona, continues to move forward. “There are clearly two tracks of interest that emerged from the initial education event,” Jewish History Museum Director Bryan Davis told the AJP. Those are ongoing education on border issues and direct community action.

The Jewish History Museum and the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s Jewish Community Relations Council are spearheading the ongoing community collaboration. “We are developing both tracks,” Davis says, while participants may be interested in either or both avenues. “The focus under the rubric of collective action will take some time to happen,” he adds, but promises that the spring will be full of opportunity.

Meanwhile, several activities occurred in November. Dozens of community members rallied against the criminalization of the Jewish value of pikuach nefesh (saving a life) on Nov. 12. They participated at a press conference outside the federal courthouse in Tucson to support activist Scott Warren as he was re-tried for providing humanitarian aid to migrants. Warren, a volunteer for Tucson-based No More Deaths, was acquitted two days later after jurors deliberated two and a half hours over charges stemming from Warren’s Jan. 18, 2018, arrest in Ajo, Arizona. He was charged with two felonies for harboring illegal immigrants and felony conspiracy to smuggle. After a hung jury in the initial trial that ended July 2, the conspiracy charge was dropped.

In the education track, the museum held an event Nov. 18 with testimony from a community member who spent years in detention. Participants also learned about Keep Tucson Together’s Rapid Response Network that provides a hotline to respond to fear and anxiety surrounding immigration enforcement. They wrote letters and made cards for those currently in detention.

The museum’s gallery chat at 11 a.m. today, “Forging Arizona: Narrative, Borders, and Identity,” features Anita Huizar-Hernandez, an assistant professor of border studies at the University of Arizona. Her research investigates how narratives have shaped the political, economic, and cultural landscape of the Southwestern borderlands and Arizona in particular.

Scholar-in-residence Maxwell Greenberg will join the museum staff in January to focus on “Jewish Latinidad: A History of Jews, Race, and the U.S.-Mexico Border.” Greenberg is a doctoral candidate at UCLA and was a Skirball Fellow in Modern Jewish Culture. He will conduct three three-week courses, culminating in an endowed lecture on March 4.