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Editor's Note: More than 1,200 women from 70 organizations are fasting in 35 states for immigration reform that keeps families together and treats women fairly this month. The month of fasting will culminate April 7-9th, 2014 when 100 women will fast in DC for 48 hours.

Click here to sign the petition urging Speaker Boehner to meet with these courageous women in DC in April.

When my nana, Claire Laufer Daniels, was 17 years old, the Nazis marched into her hometown of Vienna and were welcomed with open arms. Seemingly overnight, her friends turned on her, she was forbidden from attending school and she was even forced to scrub the city’s sidewalks with guns pointed at her head.

Thankfully, she was able to escape, but her parents stayed behind and were eventually murdered at Auschwitz. She came to the United States all alone as a scared 17-year-old. She spoke no English. She knew nobody. She had no idea what would happen to her parents.

Thankfully, the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) was there to help. They took her in and taught her hair-styling, a skill she would later use to open her own salon. They taught her to speak English. They helped her become an American citizen. My nana passed away last summer at the age of 92. To honor her memory, and to honor the plight of today’s immigrants, I am participating in today’s NCJW Fast of Esther.

Today is my first time participating in the Fast of Esther. I will fast as a mother of a four-year-old son. I will fast to advocate for the immigrant women and families who suffer because of our broken immigration system that divides families and keeps many of our undocumented neighbors fearfully living in the shadows. This fast is part of the month-long, nationwide Women's Fast for Families to stress the urgency of passing just and comprehensive immigration reform that is fair to women, children, and families.

Stories such as my nana’s are why members of the Jewish community have always been so passionate about immigration issues. As Mick Jones of the Clash and Big Audio Dynamite wrote in the song “Beyond the Pale,” (probably the most compelling pro-immigration song I am aware of), a song about his Jewish grandparents’ journey to a better life in the UK, “but for accidents of disorder, that guy could well be me.” Todays undocumented immigrants could be all of us. I know not to presume that my fasting will make a giant impact on immigrant rights, but perhaps it will spur me to take a bigger stand for people whose voices are not yet heard.

I am also fasting in solidarity with the 550 Northwest Detention Center detainees who have been on a hunger strike since March 8 in Washington State. Yes, I am fully aware that a day of fasting is not anywhere close to what they are doing, and that hunger is a serious problem in our society, but I think it is important that my family, friends and co-workers understand what is going on in this country in regards to immigration.

What has been popping up in my head is how fearful the Persian Jewish community must have been at the time of Haman, and how fearful the 11 million undocumented workers that are forced to live in the shadows must feel now. They don't enjoy the same workplace protections that we do. They don't enjoy the same legal protections that we do. Our current immigration system is broken. It is tearing families apart. As a community that has suffered so profoundly for millennia, it is incumbent upon us to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. I hope that today’s fast will raise our voices together and finally get Congress to do something.

I think my nana would have been proud of me today. She was a lifelong progressive herself and always encouraged us to fight for what was right. I will continue to honor her memory by doing just that.


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