Sanctuary around the Seder table

Every year since I was about twelve years old I planned my own seder. I would wrangle anyone I could to join me - family, friends, strangers I met in the park near my house in Philadelphia - and spend hours preparing a Passover in which I followed my own lead; I asked and answered The Four Questions, I bargained with myself over the Afikomen, and most importantly, I connected the themes of exodus, slavery and liberation to a current event.

I quickly learned that no one had patience for reading the entire Haggadah (the book that tells the story of Passover) and started making my own abbreviated versions, complete with non-technical English transliterations of the Hebrew blessings.

One year the Seder theme was the genocide in Darfur, another time was the refugee crisis. I described how immigration policies that generate terror and break up families were like the Pharaoh's cruel decrees in Ancient Egypt, or how gentrification in San Francisco’s Mission District, that forced people out of their homes, recalled the Jews who fled Egypt without time to allow bread to leaven.

This year, my Passover seder was about sanctuary. I’m a disabled person who intermittently hires home care workers, and I have become more and more involved in organizing for both disability justice and workers rights in the Bay Area. As a member of Hand in Hand and disability justice organizer in the Bay Area, I have found that I have a specific role to play in creating more Sanctuary spaces and am working to grow our #SanctuaryHomes work -- uniting those homes into a larger Sanctuary Neighborhood.  

Sanctuary was a natural fit with the story of Passover - with ICE as Pharaoh and undocumented immigrant families as Jews --  and as we read the Haggadah, more and more allegorical themes arose. We read a passage about the hard work that Jewish women did to clean their homes of chametz (bread crumbs that more observant Jews clean out of their homes before Passover) and I mentioned that this physical labor is the daily work of many domestic workers.

Some guests talked about how they previously did or currently do this practice - and how some of them hire house cleaners to do this work. One guest reminisced about her time working for a Jewish family as a maid — cleaning out the chametz was part of her job. It reminded me how important it is for us to share stories of our real lives -- that’s a true intersectional activist framework -- because none of us live in identity silos, and the struggles we engage in necessarily overlap.

Our younger guests generously lent us masks so that we could each dress up as one of the Ten Plagues, and we grappled with the challenge of rejoicing a victory that resulted from pain and suffering in other  communities.

I invited the guests to contemplate ways in which we are both modern day Jews fleeing slavery and modern day Pharaohs, oppressing and enslaving. People discussed their own migration stories -- ones that originated in families of Holocaust survivors and ones that were victimized by our broken and nativist immigration policies today.

As always, I added an olive to the seder plate to represent hopes for peace in the Middle East and around the world and an orange to represent what would have been unimaginable not too long ago — a table with women leaders and queer and trans people sharing the Seder meal* just as we are.

When everyone had finally arrived for the Seder, there were too many of us to fit in my small apartment -- and the family adjacent to me, also Seder guests that evening, instantly offered to let us use their more spacious dining area. The more able-bodied amongst us transported the meal and place settings to their home.

As always, I only wished I’d had more time to prepare. To have a ready to-go Sanctuary Homes Haggadah that guests could take home and contemplate. Instead, I distributed Hand in Hand’s Sanctuary Home campaign information and look forward to next year when my spatial and textual planning will be improved, and perhaps can share my work to make Passover a time to remember the importance of Sanctuary spaces with all of you!


*Thank you to the organization One Table who provided funds for our Friday evening / Shabbat dinner + Passover seder food!

Katie Savin lives in the Bay Area where she is a member of and the Disability Justice organizer for Hand in Hand, a PhD student in Social Welfare at UC Berkeley, a published author, and a devoted human to her service cat.

We’ve Got Work to Do!” Inspiration from the Women of The State of Our Union

By Corinne Martin

 The author, left, at a State Of Our Union watch party with Hand in Hand.

The author, left, at a State Of Our Union watch party with Hand in Hand.

Like many Americans, I felt the approach of January 30 with a rising sense of dread. I knew that everyone would be watching 45’s first State of the Union, and I knew that the event would create anger, stress, and anxiety for those of us who care about the civil and human rights of others. So I was both relieved and excited to receive an invitation to participate in an alternate program sponsored by Hand in Hand: Domestic Employers Network and Central Ohio Worker Center called the State of OUR Union. What could have been a night of negativity was instead an uplifting, inspiring night of community and a call to action.

State of Our Union took place in Washington, D.C. and was broadcast to viewing parties across the country. Our group met at Bottom’s Up Coffee Co-op in Franklinton and began with wine and pizza, followed by the viewing of the State of Our Union. The program featured women from around the country who represent the intersectional feminist issues derided and ignored by our current administration.

One by one, brave women with myriad perspectives took to the stage to share their stories and ended their speeches with pledges to create real change in 2018. Instead of listening to the lies of an unqualified, hateful old man, we witnessed strong women standing up to resist oppression and vowing to fight for others. I was blown away.

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Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s words made the biggest impression on me as she explained why she decided to boycott and miss her first State of the Union in over twenty years: “I could not sit and celebrate a president who rode racism, xenophobia, and sexism to the White House.” As she listed all of the obstacles women — especially women of color — face in the United States on a daily basis in terms of healthcare, equal pay, access to education, sexual violence and trauma, she repeated the refrain, “We have got work to do.”

But, like all of the other women who took the stage, she gave us hope and inspiration when she followed this with, “So there is good news because you’re here and I’m here, and at every turn the resistance which has been led by progressive women sent a clear message: Not on our watch.” Not on our watch, indeed!

My name is Corinne Martin. I believe in the power of our union, and I pledge in 2018 to fight louder and harder for what is right — for fairness and equality, and for the safety and happiness of those who cannot fight for themselves.

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Corinne Martin teaches English in Columbus, Ohio.

A special task for employers of immigrants

For #SanctuaryHomes participants who are domestic employers (that is, a nanny, house cleaner, or home care attendant works for you or in your home), we have a special question this week: Have you planned for the holidays yet?

Amidst all the political chaos, it can be hard to remember that the holidays are coming, but it's a great time to reflect on yet another facet of our communities and daily lives, especially how immigrant workers may be a part of them.

How much has the nanny, cleaner, or home attendant you employe done to make your year a better one in 2017?

In a turbulent year, has their work provided relief, support, stability, or ease?
If so, now is the time to return the favor: Learn how to bring more light into your home as an employer during the holiday season, including year-end bonuses and planning for time off.

For many of us at Hand in Hand, the labor of a professional domestic worker has allowed us do to more of the work we want and need to do, from caring for children and parents to showing up at the office to living independently at home. And yes, protesting! (Sometimes, we even did that together.)

Reflecting on our own stress and anxiety this year, we can appreciate how much domestic workers have faced themselves, as a workforce that is mostly immigrants and women of color. (One star nanny, Namrata, was honored by the National Domestic Workers Alliance this month on the one hand, while dealing with the risk of her protected immigration status being revoked on the other.)  

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As we know from our own jobs and lives, it means a lot to hear that our hard work is appreciated. It strengthens our relationships and gives us more energy for the year ahead.  

Because domestic work has often been “informal” or seen as different from other professions, and because December can be hectic (so hectic!) it can be easy to forget that we need to put on our employer hat —it’s the one that says “Boss” on one side and “Human Resources” on the other. But it’s not only manageable, it’s really worthwhile.

As one worker said:  “A bonus and paid time off show how much my employer values my work. It gives me a sense of dedication to the family I work for. When they come back from their holiday vacation, I’m here waiting.”

Here are 3 things to keep in mind, based on the Fair Care Pledge, our three golden rules of being an employer at home: Fair pay, Clear expectations, and Paid Time Off.

The Bonus

An average year-end bonus is usually between one and two weeks pay, although if it feels right to your family, you can of course choose to give more. Think of the bonus as an expression of how much you value your employee, within the boundaries of what you can realistically afford.

The “Annual Review”

The holiday bonus provides you with a great opportunity to communicate what you valued about your employee’s work over the past year.

If your employee has taken on more responsibilities over the past year than in her initial job description, an increase in her wages is a more appropriate way to compensate her for stepping up.

You may wish to let the nanny, housecleaner, or home attendant you employ know to expect a bonus (different from a holiday gift, though those are great too!) so she can take it into consideration when making her own holiday plans.

Vacation  

Please keep in mind that a bonus is not a replacement for paid time off. Your employee is also looking forward to their own holiday traditions, so make sure to give generously here too wherever possible.

This has been a challenging year for many, many people, and domestic workers may have had an especially difficult year. Economic security is a gift to both body and soul. Together, we can bring more light to the end of a year that has felt dark for many. Make sure the person you employ gets the chance to have a restorative holiday season, and then, have a great one yourself!    

Our complete guide to holidays & year-end bonuses is available here! 

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How 3 Parents Are Building Community and Resisting Trump — at Daycare

When Trump was elected, our families were worried about the impact that a possible anti-immigrant crackdown could have on our immigrant friends and neighbors, and in particular the Latina women who care for our children at a neighborhood daycare in Washington DC.

A small group of parents started talking about how we could let the staff know that we appreciate them, were upset by the anti-immigrant rhetoric and promised policies during the election, and that we wanted to support them however we could. I want to share my story of finding the right course of action to encourage others to find theirs.

First, we read and discussed the resources that Hand in Hand put out after the election about how to dialogue with targeted people and offer concrete support. We tried to figure out how to best communicate our support to all of the workers without overstepping with the daycare owner (also a Latina immigrant). We also debated whether or not to discuss the issue with the entire parent group, including people whose positions on immigrant issues we did not know.  

We ended up deciding not to go to the broader parent group but decided that those of us who were able (mostly based on our ability to communicate in Spanish) would talk to the owner, and other workers as possible, in person. A number of us also included messages in our holiday cards to all the staff last year. Farah had a good conversation with the owner and later a couple staff members, letting them know what that we wanted to make sure that the staff feels supported by the parents, that we were happy to talk about  any concerns, and were also happy to provide any information or resources that we could.

Even though they seemed general at the time, it turns out that these conversations opened the door. A couple months later, when a “Day Without An Immigrant” was organized for February, the daycare owner told us that she wished her team could participate. Our families were new to parenting and to the daycare, but Max quickly sent an email to the other parents at the daycare, some of whom we didn't know yet, to see if they could keep their kids home. A couple people chimed in with offers to take a turn watching any kids whose parents couldn't rearrange their work schedules. Farah called the parents who did not respond to the email to ensure that they had both gotten the email and were not annoyed or offended.

The response was more enthusiastic than we could have hoped - nearly all the families made alternate arrangements. Even the parents who didn't get the message in time and did bring in their kids were able to pick them up early. This quick organizing meant that all of the employees of the daycare were able to take the day to protest or mark it as they wished, with only the owner staying to watch the few children who were there for the morning.

We began with the intention of deepening our relationship with the workers who care for our kids, but this experience also brought us closer to the other parents. I was surprised at how supportive they were, and that they were willing to rearrange their schedules on short notice. It also showed the daycare owner and staff that we were with them. As we've become closer, we've been able to join forces as parents to mark deaths and births in the families of the daycare providers.

Since then, we have been asked to provide resources to answer people's questions, including info sheets on what to do if ICE comes to the door, and contact information for local groups that provide legal aid. Both of our families are also organizing and protesting to push for justice at a city and national level. We were glad to have the chance to engage more directly with the people we see every day, and to take a small act in solidarity with them.

— Farah, Max, and Jess

Will parents be deported before the holidays?

Thousands of you brought the DREAM to your Thanksgiving tables last week, inspired by the #SanctuaryHomes toolkit. Thank you so much for spreading the word and for making hundreds of critical phone calls demanding Congress pass a clean DREAM Act by the end of the the year.

Congress must be feeling the heat, and our partners in the immigrants rights movement are urging all of us to keep up the pressure.  For the next month, we’re helping We Belong Together collect thousands of letters from kids all over the country, kids like Jasmine who want to help.  

Will you join us in getting the whole family involved?

Jasmine (left) is a child of parents who are DACA recipients.  She is living in fear that her parents will be deported. While some kids are wondering what presents they’ll get, Jasmine is scared that she “won’t have my mommy for Christmas.”

Instead of asking Santa to keep her mom home for Christmas, Jasmine sent a letter to Congress.

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Keeping all members of our communities safe this holiday season should not be left only to communities under attack.  It is up to all of us to keep everyone safe. 

Will your family join ours in this fight? Write a letter along with a kid you love, asking Congress to pass the DREAM Act, protect families with TPS, and stop tearing our families apart.You can deliver your letter in person, locally, or send it to us. In December, we’ll be delivering all the letters to Congress in person. 

If we don't succeed, how many children might spend the holidays without a parent this year because of Trump’s decision to end DACA? As many of us at Hand in Hand are parents, it hurts to imagine.

Click here to find a guide with ideas to get kids inspired to write their own letters.