July 22, 2019
Serena Adlerstein didn’t expect her Facebook status to turn into a nationwide movement—but somehow her words managed to mobilize thousands of young Jews to the streets, protesting the treatment of migrants in U.S. detention, she told NBC News.
“I made an offhand Facebook post like, ‘What if young Jews occupied ICE detention centers and shut them down?’” Adlerstein, 25, she said in an interview with the network news outlet.
People responded, and by that evening, on June 24, she was on the phone with other young Jews from around the country planning a protest, and hundreds of people had signed up on a Google doc expressing interest in joining.
Their motivation was empathy for those seeking asylum and safety—but they also harbored memories and fears that stretched back more than a century: Indeed, as she watched pundits and politicians debate whether to call migrant detention centers “concentration camps”, Adlerstein was reminded of the Holocaust refrain she was raised on: “Never Again.”
A week later, on Sunday, June 30, about 200 protesters under the banner of the newly formed Never Again Action protested outside a detention center in Elizabeth, New Jersey. As of that day, 36 activists were arrested and the demonstration had sparked a burgeoning movement.
Since that initial protest, just two weeks ago, Never Again Action has organized more than 10 different protests around the country, in states from California to Rhode Island, and more are scheduled in the coming weeks.
In Boston on July 2, more than 1,000 protesters gathered at the New England Holocaust Memorial, where they marched to a nearby jail where ICE houses detainees. In Philadelphia, 33 people were arrested when they blocked the city’s Fourth of July parade, holding sings like ‘Never Again Means Close the Camps.”
Julia Davidovitz, 25, a preschool teacher in Boston organizing with Never Again, told the network news outlet that people like her need to act and bring the community together because institutional leaders aren’t.
“This is an occasion where we have been moral leaders,” she said. “We have not seen as much moral leadership from the stronghold of the mainstream Jewish leadership.”
Davidovitz wants to see entire congregations join upcoming actions, and invited her rabbi and mom to join her in action.
Research contact: @NeverAgainActn