Copy of testimony delivered by Ann B. Toback, Executive Director of The Workmen’s Circle on Tuesday, March 7, 2017 at Public Advocate Letitia James’ Press Conference


I am proud to stand here today with the Public Advocate and our other elected officials and civic leaders. Together, we are showing a strong, unwavering commitment to keep New York City a safe haven and a Sanctuary City for immigrants.

More than a century ago, the Workmen’s Circle was founded by Eastern European Jewish immigrants who came to the United States–often at great peril–seeking a land of freedom and opportunity.

Instead, they found a country that was not as welcoming as they had hoped.

They had to overcome many obstacles so they could achieve the American dream. They faced exploitative working conditions, poor housing, education and healthcare, and challenges assimilating to a new, unfamiliar culture, where religious intolerance and anti-Semitism were frequently encountered.

But through the staunch advocacy and pressure of our ancestors, many of the barriers came down.

Today history is repeating itself.

Over the last months, we have witnessed a divisiveness, spearheaded by President Trump and his administration, motivating bigoted people across the country to feel empowered to commit acts of violence and hate. We are seeing anti-Semitic incidents rise to a terrifying high, and terrible violent acts against our Muslim and Sikh brothers and sisters, among others. 

We commit to fight at every opportunity – Trump’s bigoted efforts to build a border wall and close our borders to those who need us most.  We stand here today to express our strong support for Public Advocate James’ proposed legislation that will prevent companies that help build the wall from obtaining contracts with New York City and also to we join with her and say we will not support businesses that support this border wall.

Because as Jewish-Americans, we know the dangers of shutting our borders to those in need. 

To many people who have viewed America as a land of hope – those living across the border, and refugees from Sudan or Syria – being denied entry here will be a death sentence. We are here to commit to fight to keep our borders open to those who need us most.

We live in the greatest city in the world. One made stronger by the people who come here from other lands. The hard-earned dollars of New Yorkers, many of whom are immigrants, should never support projects whose goal is bigotry, hatred, and exclusion.  Today we are here to support Public Advocate James’ proposed legislation and commit to work with our City’s elected leaders to keep our borders open and our city a safe haven for all.