CBST’s Ark Immigration Clinic trains volunteers and attorneys to assist with asylum and work permit applications, translation, accompaniment to USCIS interviews, direct support for our immigrant neighbors, and more.
CBST became a Sanctuary synagogue in January 2017, and in May 2019, we started a weekly immigration clinic for asylum seekers. Our clinic now functions entirely online. In coalition with Seeking Asylum Finding Empowerment (SAFE), RUSA LGBT, and UnLocal, and inspired by the New Sanctuary Coalition, attorneys and non-attorneys build community with asylum seekers to support our friends and neighbors as they navigate the immigration system.
Refugee Shabbat was on February 3rd, 2023 - we were honored to have Ark clinic volunteer Steven Miller as our guest speaker, with messages from several of our immigrant frinds who have won asylum or been granted TPS in the ast year. Watch and listen here! We observe Refugee Shabbat every year in conjunction with HIAS and Jewish communities across North America.
If you would like to volunteer with the clinic on Wednesday or Thursday evenings, or if you would like to refer an immigrant friend to our clinic, contact Clinic Director Noah Habeeb at email@example.com. Be sure to check our calendar for upcoming online Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses for attorneys and training sessions for non-attorneys!
Our work is possible thanks to support from both individual donors and grants, including the Jonathan Grindell Memorial Fund for Social Justice, the Tikkun Olam Foundation, UnBound Philanthropy, and the City of New York. Contribute to support our work.
Current volunteers can find clinic resources and links here.
We are thrilled to celebrate our 25 asylum grantees!
Our friends who win asylum all have long-term support from CBST’s Ark clinic volunteers and staff on this journey. Make a donation to our mutual aid fundraiser in their honor, and help us help more of our immigrant friends in NYC!
Adriana, our 17th immigrant friend to win her asylum case, shared this beautiful message with her volunteer team, Helen Feuer, Lizzie Reis, Patrick Johnson, and Cally Guasti. We share it here with her permission:
“I left Peru with fears but with conviction. My story is the story of thousands of trans women in the world. When I went to you I faced my sad memories, which I tried for many years not to remember, in order to continue living. Seeing your love and dedication to help others committed me even more to my dreams and missions. I have within me a deep sense of satisfaction, the merit is not mine, it is yours. Sometimes I have missed those Wednesdays where I found those wonderful human beings that you were, I give the first place in my heart to love that is shown in a thousand ways and you did it every Wednesday and how many more days and I without knowing it. I am committed to my pure essence, to give from now on my best years to this great country that has welcomed me. I also apologize for not being able to communicate in English, although we had an angel who translated everything for us. I am still studying English to be able to speak it fluently. My loyalty and gratitude to each one of you and do not lose heart in your desire to return smiles and peace to vulnerable human beings.”
What has CBST’s Ark Immigration Clinic accomplished?
- We have welcomed over 500 immigrant friends from all boroughs of New York City.
- Our immigrant friends have come from 52 different countries.
- Around 70% of the friends we’ve welcomed are LGBTQ+ and/or HIV+.
- We have helped over 60 immigrant friends file asylum applications pro se (self-representing), and have connected about 20% of our friends to legal representation.
- As of January 2023, 25 of our friends have been granted asylum!
- We have disbursed over $40,000 from our mutual aid fund to help our immigrant friends during the pandemic, and our mutual aid team has helped connect many of them to additional forms of financial and other assistance.
What is Sanctuary?
According to T’ruah, Sanctuary is “the movement and the work of defending immigrants and standing up for their rights.” CBST is actively engaged in Sanctuary work, protecting and supporting our immigrant friends as they face our complex and challenging asylum process, and advocating for undoing the damage caused by the previous administration.
- RUSA LGBT supports asylum seekers and organizes social events to increase acceptance and inclusion of LGBTQ people within the Russian-speaking public. We fight for social justice, human and civil rights for LGBTQ people in America and in the former Soviet Union. RUSA LGBT advocates for justice for asylum seekers and for equality worldwide!
- SAFE (Seeking Asylum and Finding Empowerment) empowers immigrants and vulnerable populations who have been marginalized due to sexual orientation, gender identity, and other factors to reach their fullest potential by providing humanitarian assistance while fostering understanding and cooperation among diverse communities.
- UnLocal is a community-centered non-profit organization that provides direct immigration legal representation and community education to New York City’s undocumented immigrant communities. UnLocal aims to address the fundamental injustices and structural inequities that disproportionately impact immigrant communities.
- The New Sanctuary Coalition (NSC) sprung from New York’s faith-based and social justice communities. Operating for a decade on less-than-shoestring budgets, NSC organized an accompaniment program, an immigration clinic, and a bond fund, and played a central role in the founding of the Ark clinic at CBST. We are grateful to have received a grant from NSC's closing funds that helps us continue this important work.
- The Synagogue Coalition and Downtown Jewish Life is a group of synagogues and Jewish non-profits coordinating and amplifying efforts to engage more deeply. The group collaborates with organizations like HIAS and T’ruah to advocate for and assist refugee and immigrant families. By partnering with them we are creating a louder voice for justice and equality.
- Faith in New York is a significant multi faith organization that advocates for a number of different issues, including supporting immigrants.
Articles & Resources
- To learn more about the Jewish response to sanctuary, read the T’ruah guide for synagogues interested in doing this important work.
- LGBTQ Congregation Launches Weekly Immigration Clinic, Fordham Law News, June 2019
- N.Y.C. Synagogue’s Legal Clinic Offers Migrants Help and a Welcome Dose of 'Rehumanization', Haaretz, July 2019
- Read a Letter to the Latinx Community from over 500 Jewish Leaders, including CBST clergy, August 2019
- This Passover, Let's Free Them All, by Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Common Dreams, April 2020