More than 50 members of the Kol Ami congregation gathered at Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church in Kirkland on July 12 to protest the border detention camps in one of the hundreds of Lights for Liberty Vigils.
The vigil was one of the 46 planned across Washington state. There were more than 800 vigils across the world including in Australia, France, Japan and more.
Before spreading out on State Street in Kirkland, Kol Ami Rabbi Yohanna Kinberg read off all the Washington locations to the congregation and mentioned how standing in vigil does make a difference.
“I hope standing together refreshes and fills you to keep doing this work because there are children and families who need us to be their voice,” she told the congregation before members took their places along State Street.
Elizabeth Standal, a Kirkland resident holding a broken heart poster that stated “Families Belong Together” was present at the vigil and ready to stand against the inhumane treatment of migrants and refugees.
“I teach international students, my husband is an immigrant and I am a descendant of immigrants,” Standal said. “That is just who we are in America. I think it’s shameful to treat children as if they’re criminals ’cause they’re not.”
The vigils were in protest of the conditions of those being held at detention centers near the border. Under President Donald Trump’s immigration policy, federal authorities separated children from parents or guardians with whom they had entered the United States illegally. Adults are prosecuted and held in federal jails. Meanwhile children are placed under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human services.
As the congregation spread out on State Street, many were holding signs that read “No kids in Cages,” “Abolish ICE” and “Never again is now.” Many demonstrators also had candles for the vigil.
Kinberg told the congregation they were using their constitutional right to speak up, to stand up.
“We’re going to gather and we’re going to be loud. Not necessarily in our voices but in our messages that we’re holding up,” she said.
Leah Kliger, a Kol Ami member and founder of Kirkland Safe, said she was proud to see so many Kirklanders standing vigil. As a descendant of immigrants, Kliger said she is saddened by the administration. Her grandparents were immigrant Jews who came to the United States but her family had other relatives who did not come over died in the Holocaust during World War II.
“My initial feeling is just one of deep sadness that a country built on a foundation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has become so divided and this issue is one that [people] should never be divided about,” she said.
To end the protest, the congregation gathered inside the church for a vigil service. Members walked in line with candles in hand to place at the front of the church. Kinberg lit the shabbat candles as a symbol of their connection and dedication to those who are voiceless and for those who need care and love.
“We light the shabbat candles tonight to honor them,” she said.
Lights for Liberty is a coalition of people dedicated to human rights and the fundamental principle behind democracy — that all human beings have a right to life, liberty and dignity.
For more information on Lights for Liberty see, www.lightsforliberty.org.