By GWEN OREL
On Thursday, Dec. 14, at 7:30 p.m., there will be an interfaith gathering at Bnai Keshet, 99 South Fullerton Ave., to celebrate the formation of the Montclair Sanctuary Alliance. Bnai Keshet’s Red Gables building is in the process of being renovated so it can hold undocumented individuals facing deportation.
The event is co-sponsored by Bnai Keshet, First Congregational Church, The Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair and the faith-organizing group Faith in NJ. The event will have a ceremony of songs, prayers and words of welcome, coinciding with Hanukkah.
Rabbi Elliott Tepperman and Rabbi Ariann Weitzman of Bnai Keshet, the Rev. Ann Ralosky of First Congregational Church, and the Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael of Unitarian Universalist Congregation are spearheading the project.
Tepperman said that sanctuary is a “really broad term,” and it can include having members accompany people to ICE check-ins, or have rapid response teams show up if ICE arrests someone in the middle of the night.
It can also mean physical sanctuary, which is where the third floor of Red Gables, Bnai Keshet’s original home, comes in. For Tepperman, being a sanctuary congregation is political, but not partisan: “The desire is to change the fabric of the community in order to change a policy. It’s a political act that faith requires of us.”