Rodef Sholom Is a Sanctuary Synagogue

​Sanctuary at Congregation Rodef Sholom:

A Source Sheet


Recently our Board of Directors unanimously passed a resolution to declare Congregation Rodef Sholom a Sanctuary Synagogue. The resolution was crafted and submitted by the “Synagogue as Sanctuary Committee” which is part of the larger Rodef Sholom Social Action Initiative. This communication has been prepared to explain the Board’s decision and to answer questions you may have. 

Sanctuary can take many forms.
Involvement in Sanctuary can take place on many levels, moving from the broadest and longest-term to more immediate action. Currently, Sanctuary at Congregation Rodef Sholom does not include providing shelter. Our commitments to Sanctuary include fulfilling other levels of response including: 
  • Provide rapid response for emergency issues that arise
  • Advocate for individuals and families
  • Create a local safety net
  • Advocate for local policy
  • Provide pastoral and practical support
  • Change federal public decisions by changing hearts and minds
Sanctuary is a Jewish Imperative. The immigrants’ fight is our fight. Our history of repeated expulsions, our own immigration status or that of members of our communities, and our experience of contemporary anti-Semitism that shares the same xenophobic roots, are only a few of the many reasons for those who live by Jewish values to heed the call of Torah. Whether we are moved by hakhnasat orchim (welcoming guests), or the teaching “You shall love the stranger as yourself for you were strangers in the land of Egypt,” the Torah is clear about our moral imperatives. 1
Does the Jewish Reform Movement support Sanctuary?
Yes. The URJ encourages congregations to protect undocumented immigrants, saying that Jewish teaching compels members to treat “strangers in our midst with justice and compassion.”2 Today, congregations involved in the Sanctuary movement are mobilizing to help the undocumented community. Congregation Rodef Sholom is taking a leadership role by being the first official Sanctuary congregation in Marin. The Reform congregations in Northern California who have committed to sanctuary so far are Congregation B’nai Israel in Sacramento and Congregation Shir Hadash in Los Gatos with many more considering declaring sanctuary.
Why are we doing this now?
The need for Sanctuary is urgent. Sanctuary is emergency moral action in our own community. Undocumented immigrants are our neighbors. The current administration is ramping up immigration enforcement and deportations. Today, as many as 11 million people living in the United States without legal status are currently and immediately at risk of discrimination, harassment, and deportation. These people may have committed no crime, lived here for years, paid taxes, and be parents of children who are citizens or have been brought here themselves as children,
Are we making a political statement?
Sanctuary isn’t about partisan politics — it’s about families, faith, and justice.
This isn’t about left or right, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. People who support Sanctuary are connected not by political affiliations or specific faith traditions, but through a shared moral responsibility to compassion and justice. Families being torn apart is morally wrong, so we take action together to stop it. That’s where faith comes in. Our faith calls us to welcome the stranger and care for the most vulnerable.
Is there a threat in our own community?
The Marin and larger Bay Area community have reported considerable concern over immigration issues and many organizations, including schools and congregations, are taking proactive steps to mitigate concerns and assist the “at-risk” populations. With the recent arrest of Hugo Mejia, an upstanding community member, our neighbor and father of children from Venetia Valley school, anxiety and fears in the immigrant community have increased.
Is Sanctuary breaking the law?
There is a law against bringing in and harboring persons not authorized to be in the U.S. (INA Sec.274) While Sanctuary doesn’t bring people in, whether or not we are harboring someone is up for interpretation. Some courts have interpreted harboring to require concealment of a person. When we declare Sanctuary for an individual, we are bringing them into the light of the community, not concealing them in the dark of secrecy.
Are there any risks?
In the 1980s, a handful of clergy, nuns, and laymen were convicted in “The Sanctuary Trials” for their efforts on behalf of immigrants. Faith leaders today, including those in Marin, are working with legal teams to keep this from happening and to be aligned with local law enforcement.
The Sanctuary team at Rodef Sholom is committed to:
  • Living by our Jewish values
  • Partnering with other organizations to learn where the needs are greatest
  • Researching and learning up-to-date, accurate information about Sanctuary
The Sanctuary team has developed sub-committees to enable the congregation to stay informed and facilitate forward movement and positive action to assist at-risk populations in Marin. We welcome anyone who wants to join this team at any time in our efforts either as a volunteer or to help with organization. To get involved in any of the sub-committees, listed below, please email Janet Lipsey at [email protected]
  • The team will communicate openly and transparently with the Congregation and the wider community about steps we are taking.
Education, Training & Activities
Education is a tool that strengthens our advocacy. To that end we will:
  • Provide training and education for all: “Know Your Rights” and “Be Prepared”.
  • Provide links to resources (e.g. Legal Aid)
  • Work with local schools and community groups to continue to understand critical needs.
  • To date, the Sanctuary team has met three times with Venetia Valley parents, staff and immigration attorneys to learn the details of immigration laws and how families should be prepared.
  • The Sanctuary team worked closely with Venetia Valley to stage a rally at Rodef Sholom on May 15 in support of Hugo Mejia, a parent who was arrested and detained.  The rally was very successful, drawing a large crowd from several organizations and the Marin community. Speakers included our clergy, Venetia Valley principal Juan Rodriguez, and Congressman Jared Huffman.
  • We will continue to actively research activities that support Sanctuary work and make the congregation aware of how to participate.
  • In concert with other local organizations, we are developing a list of services that we can offer as part of Sanctuary work.These will include: pastoral support, legal support, food delivery, tutoring, translation services, notary services.
  • Our clergy is reaching out to other faith organizations to form partnerships
  • Once the above services are determined, we will reach out to the Congregation for volunteers from Rodef Sholom.
  • We will assist the Marin Interfaith Council and others in developing a Sanctuary network in Marin.

We encourage all who are interested to be involved with our Synagogue as Sanctuary work. Together we join in solidarity with communities throughout the Bay Area to support the diverse California and country in which we believe.

Clergy contact: Rabbi Elana Rosen-Brown at [email protected].

To get involved, contact Janet Lipsey at [email protected].


[1] Leviticus 19: 34

[2] Union for Reform Judaism. Resolution on Protection Individuals at Risk of Deportation from the United States. 
[3] Resources from Truah: