Published in Maryland Matters

By Dr. Zackary Berger, Baltimore; Karen Caplan, Silver Spring; Rabbi Ariana Katz, Baltimore; Michael Rubin, Takoma Park; Joanna Silver, Silver Spring; and Dr. Kate Sugarman, Potomac. 

We are Jewish organizers and activists who have worked closely with CASA for years in its efforts to support Maryland’s immigrant communities. We have always found CASA to be an organization that acts with respect, solidarity, and love for people of all backgrounds. We are outraged that elected officials are weaponizing Jewish pain in the wake of the recent atrocities by Hamas to attack and undermine CASA in response to its tweets criticizing Israel and calling for a ceasefire. To be clear: As Jews, there was nothing in CASA’s statements that we found to be antisemitic or hateful.

For the last few weeks, thousands of Jews around the country have raised their voices in support of Palestinian lives and demanded a ceasefire. They — and we — understand that the use of strong language to express outrage at the conduct of the Israeli government does not equate to antisemitism, and that an insistence on seeing this conflict in its full historical context is not antisemitic. In the weeks since October 7th, several of us have attended large, multi-ethnic and multi-religious protests and have been met only with respect and support by non-Jewish attendees who, like us, want to prevent any more loss of life.

Instead of engaging with CASA staff with the respect they deserve as partners working for the well-being of Maryland’s immigrants, every state senator from Montgomery County and at least one county councilmember has now threatened to withhold funding from CASA. Let’s be clear about what this means — CASA receives state and county funding because it provides direct services to highly vulnerable immigrant families, assisting them with housing conditions, wage theft, English language learning, and much more. What these elected officials seem to be saying is that these vital support services are less important than a single political statement.

Across America, people criticizing Israel have been harassed, threatened, and fired from their jobs, and it is unconscionable that elected officials from Montgomery County are joining in this McCarthy-like behavior. Some of these officials are Jewish, but we emphatically reject any assumption that they speak for all Jews in Maryland — they do not. We are outraged that our own elected officials are threatening to silence CASA because they expressed a view of the violence in Israel/Palestine that may be different from their own. We are also concerned that these public condemnations do not reflect authentic disagreements, but are political opportunism of the worst kind — a chance to weaken a bold, immigrant-led organization that has at times differed with some of these policy-makers on critical issues like rent stabilization, healthcare expansion, and immigration detention.

In the Mishna, a core Jewish religious text, we are taught that when someone wrongs us but makes a sincere apology, we are obligated to accept that apology. CASA has fully apologized for any harm their original statement may have caused, retracted it, and engaged in good faith dialogue and efforts towards repair. To bear a grudge against them through these continued public attacks is a violation of Jewish values and religious teachings.

To those who attempt to subvert Jewish values to harm an organization that is essential to the well-being of Maryland’s most vulnerable community members, we say: not in our name. We call on our elected officials to retract their statements, to make clear that CASA’s funding will be safe, and to affirm their commitment to listen to all the Marylanders that they represent.

We are joined by many other Jewish activists and organizers from around the state including Keren Cabral, Silver Spring; Mara Greengrass, Rockville; Eileen Hollander, Silver Spring; Elissa Laitin, Silver Spring; Michele Levy, Baltimore; Zev Rose, Wheaton; Evan Serpick, Baltimore; Max Socol, Silver Spring; Louise Weissman, Greenbelt; and Nicole Zimmerman, Silver Spring.