Our Jagged Edges: Why I Organize for Immigrants Rights

Beginning this month, we will invite members of BWC's community to guest write blog posts, highlighting the diverse programs and campaigns we are working on. As October comes to an end, we are launching an ongoing solidarity campaign with Cosecha, a movement fighting for respect, dignity and permanent protection for all immigrants in the United States. Shule alum and young adult member Emily Bloch reflects on her BWC roots, the work she does as an organizer with Cosecha, connections to Sukes, and the importance of this upcoming election. 
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Growing up, I always knew I had great grandparents who came to the United States generations ago, fleeing pogroms in Europe. But it wasn't until Sunday mornings in Shule over bagels and cream cheese at the Boston Workers' Circle that I realized I had more than just family from faraway places -- I had an ancestry and a tradition. I learned I could place myself on a timeline of Jewish union activists, war resisters, and freedom fighters. I learned to sing union songs and recite silly Yiddish phrases; I learned about Emma Goldman and Sholem Aleichem.  
 
As a child in Shule, I was also learning about how much we've lost. For each song I sung, there are a hundred songs I'll never hear; for each Yiddish phrase I learned, there are a million I'll never know. I'll never make a grocery list in Yiddish, gossip with my friends in Yiddish or fall in love in Yiddish. 
 
My family lost so much of our history, thinking it would be easier to slide into American culture with fewer jagged Jewish edges. But despite all that has been lost through the generations, I know there is still a strong thread that connects me to them. I feel my grandparents are with me singingniguns on Shabes and listening to stories peppered with Yiddish on Rosh Hashanah.  
 
When we at the Boston Workers' Circle hold tight to our own traditions and strengthen the threads that connect us to our heritages, I want us to also stand with immigrants who strive to do the same.  
That's why I work with Movimiento Cosecha, a movement fighting for respect, dignity and permanent protection for all immigrants in the United States. 
 
 
 
As I continue to delve deeper in this movement of immigrants, I feel the thread that connects me to my grandparents grow stronger. I feel them with me when Magalis, age 16, tells me that she struggles to speak in Quechua to her grandmother still living in Ecuador. I feel them with me when Cata tells me that her family fled to the hills of Oaxaca when the Spanish Mexicans came and raided their indigenous village. And when Agustin looks out at a playground full of immigrant families and casually comments that "these children will never really know where they are from".
 
I think about my grandparents and their ancestors, who cried the tears of people who watched their children leave home in search of safety. And of the children who looked forward with a steely resolve headed into a future full of promises and unknowns.
 
I see my grandparents reflected in the eyes of Magalis, Cata and Agustin, a different color, a different time, a different place - but in many ways the same story. But the stories of the people I work with in Cosecha are happening here and now. My co-organizers are living and breathing their fights for their families, for their cultures, for their histories.   
 
So why does this matter now? Cosecha means harvest. In this time of year when we celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukes, which is a harvest holiday, let us take the time to remember the sacrifice of the workers who produce our food, build our buildings, and clean our offices. As we spend time in our Sukkahs, let's cultivate our connections with our traditions and let us harvest justice.
 
Cosecha is unwilling to let the often invisible work of immigrants disappear without notice. A few weeks ago, we physically blockaded the entrance of Trump Tower in New York City with our bodies, effectively shutting down their business as usual. We reminded Trump and the country that his wealth and the wealth of so many in this nation is built on the backs of immigrant workers, the same immigrant workers Trump has violently and dangerously condemned in his presidential campaign.
 
As we near the end of this election season, I want to fight for a country where immigrant work is valued and respected, where the United States recognizes its dependence on immigrant labor. Where it's not so easy to forget that migrant workers build our buildings, clean our houses and cook our food.  Where it's not so easy to forget that the apple you dipped in honey on Rosh Hashanah was picked by a migrant worker. 
 
For me, the fight for immigrant justice is about more than legalization and citizenship.  It's about fighting for the right to hold on to our different histories, languages and traditions. It's about fighting so that no one ever has to make the impossible choice between holding onto their traditions and smoothing out their edges in order to fit into the fabric of this country.
 
In solidarity,
 

 
Emily Bloch
BWC member & Cosecha Organizer 
 
Boston Workmen's Circle is in the planning stages of our partnership with Cosecha, and will be hosting solidarity events throughout the year involving Young Adults, AFREJ, and more. Want to get involved? Email Liz. Want to share Emily's letter? Click here.