Over 100 New York rabbis and cantors signed a letter in support of the recent inclusion of a $2.1 billion fund for excluded essential workers which was announced by the New York State Senate on Tuesday.
According to the Senate, the fund aims to create a "long overdue income replacement program for New York’s estimated half-million excluded workers who have been ineligible for Unemployment Insurance and excluded from any economic relief for nearly a year."
The letter was written and released towards the end of March by the rabbinic human rights organization Tru'ah, along with the progressive group Jews For Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ).
According to the letter, "Undocumented workers and individuals recently released from incarceration are disproportionately likely to be working in essential jobs, yet they have also been blocked from receiving even a single penny in Unemployment Insurance, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or stimulus relief."
The letter quoted The Torah to make its case, stating that “You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger in one of the communities of your land.” (Devarim 24:14)
"These workers have been essential to our survival this year, and now it is our turn to rise in solidarity with them," the letter concluded.
T’ruah and JFREJ members made calls to their state elected officials in support of the Excluded Workers Fund.
T’ruah rabbis took their activism even further, standing with excluded workers who launched a hunger strike to bring attention to the issue.
Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah, released a statement on Wednesday, praising the decision, calling it "a huge victory for New York workers."
"While the fund does not go far enough to meet the tremendous need, it is a major step forward that demonstrates the responsibility to care for all New Yorkers and the inherent worth of every person," Jacobs said.
“This victory is the result of tireless advocacy by these essential, but excluded, workers and advocates organized through Make the Road New York and other community organizing groups," she said. "We will continue to support their efforts as they focus on the implementation of the new fund to ensure it remains as broadly accessible as possible."
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights is an organization which represents and mobilizes a network of more than 2,000 rabbis and cantors from all streams of Judaism that, together with the Jewish community, "act on the Jewish imperative to respect and advance the human rights of all people."