Don’t let my people go!
A Park Slope rabbi was among 19 Jewish leaders who deliberately got themselves arrested on Monday by blocking traffic outside Manhattan’s Trump Tower to protest the president’s controversial immigration ban.
Congregation Beth Elohim leader Rabbi Rachel Timoner says she felt compelled as a member of a faith with a long history of persecution to challenge the president’s ban on citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S., which she thinks victimizes people purely for their faith and nationality.
“Our people were exterminated because we couldn’t get into other countries,” said Timoner. “As rabbis many of us feel obligated to stand up when other people are being discriminated against due to their religion and national origin.”
The 19 Talmudic teachers were part of a larger protest of around 200 people organized by progressive Jewish human rights group T’Ruah. But part-way through the picket line, the rabbis broke off and informed police of their intention to sit down in Central Park West in an act of civil disobedience.
The cops gave them about 20 minutes to do their thing — mostly, praying and trilling the “Song of the Sea,” which the ancient Israelites sang as they crossed the Red Sea in their flight from Egypt — before arresting them, Timoner recounted.
She feels Trump’s executive order is so heinous that the act of self-sacrifice was called for.
“When a person is willing to but their body on the line it means he or she feels very strongly that something is wrong,” Timoner said. “This ban rises to this level and I think many more of us need to rise up. We’re not going to be quiet.”
Only a few members of Timoner’s Park Slope congregation were present during her arrest, while the majority were engaged in a workshop on resisting Trump’s policies back at the Garfield Place sanctuary
She chose not to inform the majority of her flock of her impending arrest so as not to distract them from their important work, she said.
“That’s actually the work, that’s people rolling up their sleeves and working together,” Timoner said.
Since The Donald’s ascension as Commander in Chief, the synagogue has become a local focal point of resistance for left-leaning agitators, she says.
“I’m really proud of my congregation — really proud,” Timoner said. “They’ve been inspiring to me.”
Police gave Timoner a desk appearance ticket for a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct for her role in the protest, and she is scheduled to appear before a judge on April 4.