In Supreme Court’s immigration ruling, Jewish groups see progress but have concerns


Most Jewish groups who have weighed in on Arizona’s controversial immigration law saw progress in the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to repeal three of the law’s four parts, but had concerns that law enforcement officials would still be allowed to check the legal immigration status of people they detain.

The high court on Monday invalidated the provisions authorizing police to arrest illegal immigrants without warrant if there was probable cause that they committed an offense that made them eligible for deportation; making it an Arizona state crime if immigrants did not carry registration papers or some sort of government identification; and forbidding immigrants unauthorized to work in the country to apply, solicit or perform work.

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society was among the groups that welcomed the repeals but had reservations with the court’s decision.

“Though we view the positive part of this ruling as another step in the advancement of immigrant rights—forwarded recently by President Obama’s executive order halting deportations of Dream Act eligible individuals—we remain extremely concerned about the potential for racial profiling as a result of today’s decision,” Mark Hetfield, the interim president and CEO of HIAS, said in a news statement.

The law, passed in April 2010, was meant primarily to deal with illegal immigrants coming from Mexico, according to proponents of the measure at the time of its passage. They also noted that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer had issued an executive order establishing a training program on how to avoid racial profiling when implementing the new rules.

In April, HIAS coordinated a letter to Brewer, a Republican, and also joined more than 100 other faith-based organizations and civil rights groups in submitting an amicus brief that urged the Supreme Court to strike down Arizona’s law.

Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman and national chair Robert Sugarman in a news statement called the ruling a “mixed outcome.”

“One of our primary concerns has been that Arizona’s law would exacerbate fear in immigrant communities and, in particular, make victims and witnesses of hate crimes reluctant to speak with police,” they wrote.

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, noted in a statement that RAC welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn most provisions in the law, but called on Arizona to urge caution on the remaining part.

“We urge Arizona and the lower courts to endorse the principle that all women, men and children deserve equal protection under the law, as appearance offers no grounds on which to assume the legal status of an individual,” Saperstein wrote. “Engaging in racial profiling only jeopardizes the safety of entire communities, as members of immigrant communities fearful of being profiled are discouraged from cooperating with law enforcement on issues.”

Nancy Kaufman, the CEO of the National Council for Jewish Women, wrote in a news statement that the high court’s ruling “is a welcome step toward ending the efforts by state legislatures to superimpose their own vindictive legislative regime on federal immigration law.”

Family murder-suicide devastates Arizona Jewish community


Following a businessman’s destruction of his family, the Jewish community of Tempe, Ariz., has “no answers,” according to a local rabbi.

Sometime during the early hours Shabbat, June 1-2, James Butwin murdered his 40-year-old wife, Yafit, and their three children—Malissa, 16; Daniel, 14; and Matthew, 7. Then, he killed himself.

“There are no answers for something this tragic,” Rabbi Dean Shapiro of Temple Emanuel, where James Butwin was a member of the synagogue board, told mourners during a June 6 service. “It is time to come together, to be together in our shock and horror and fear… Expect no answers tonight.”

Although in the process of divorce, Yafit had celebrated her husband’s birthday, posting a photo and a message—“Happy Birthday Jim, I am so proud of my three children :) and they know why”—on Facebook.  Hours later, in the middle of the desert, all were dead. Pinal County officers found the burned SUV holding their five unrecognizable corpses June 2.

The Butwin family was an active part of the Jewish community in Tempe, Ariz. Rabbi Shapiro said the family had a “circle of friends full to bursting.” Only friends mourned the Butwin family; no relatives had yet arrived from Israel, Yafit’s homeland, or from New Jersey, where James is from. JointMedia News Service spoke with Temple Emanuel member Paul White June 6, just prior to a “service of grief.” More than 600 attended “a very brief service, bringing the community, the schools together,” White said.

The service was not a funeral. In the tradition of placing a stone on a grave, for more than 20 minutes the 600 mourners filed past five holders, placing symbolic glass beads.

Temple Emanuel board member Steven Gotfried has been designated as the congregation’s spokesperson, a role he called “very challenging and difficult.” In an interview with JointMedia News Service, he said “the word that comes to mind is shock.” “Disbelief and a sort of a numbness…We are trying to grasp this, to get an understanding…sad,” he said.

Gotfried said a Butwin neighbor had commented that “this was not the Jim that we know. There was something going on that caused this—something physically going on with his brain and his mind. The Jim we knew and loved and played with was not the Jim that did this.” James Butwin, who had been diagnosed with a brain tumor, was described by Gotfried as having been a “warm, personable person… just a nice guy, kind, very laid-back, a man who listened more than he spoke.” 

“There was a profound sense of shock and grief when the news was known,” said Gotfried. “A need for people to get together, to comfort each other.”

JointMedia News Service asked Gotfried, whose daughter had shared a Hebrew school class with Daniel Butwin, the older boy, if anyone in the family had sought help, either from the rabbi or any other community resource. “Even if so,” he said, “they were private conversations, not to be shared.”

Now, after the tragedy, Jewish Family Services of Phoenix has responded very publicly, providing counselors for adults and children and helping form a Jewish community crisis group, offering advice to staff and lay leaders “trying to make sense of it,” and providing “advice on how to talk to your children,” Gotfried said. 

Gotfried noted that the investigation is revealing “more and more information” about the Butwins’ once private lives. Court records confirm the divorce proceedings, but with no history of domestic violence. Jim Butwin’s divorce lawyer, Bill Bishop, told the Arizona Republic that domestic and financial issues “were being handled professionally,” and that “there was no indication whatsoever that he was upset or anything.” He said “this is one of the most cowardly acts that anybody could ever do.”

Cowardly, but not unplanned. Tempe police revealed that during the week before the devastating murder-suicide, James Butwin had sent a key to the family’s Corona Estates home and a letter to his business partner. Sgt. Jeff Glover of the Tempe Police Department on June 7 said a police inspection of the home revealed “suspicious and concerning evidence” including blood and shell casings in bedrooms and two guns inside the torched SUV found in the Sonoran desert June 2. A second suicide letter has also been found.

Steven Wolfson, Yafit’s attorney, confirmed that the Butwins’ continued to share their home during the divorce proceedings. An order issued by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jay Polk charged that “both parties shall be cordial to each other in the marital residence and respect each other’s privacy.” 

“This is out of the blue as far as we’re concerned,” said Wolfson.

James Butwin was involved in commercial-property deals. Yafit Butwin, a devoted mother, had recently graduated from Northern Arizona University and started an interior design business.

Neighbor Robert Kempton, speaking to the Associated Press, called the tragedy “totally unexpected to the point of almost being unbelievable.”

Giffords announces resignation from Congress


U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot by a gunman in January, announced that she will resign from Congress.

In a two-minute video released Sunday, Giffords (D-Ariz.) said she will step down as she continues her recovery.

“I have more work to do on my recovery, so to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week,” she said. “I’m getting better. Every day my spirit is high. I will return, and we will work together for Arizona and this great country.”

Speaking slowly but clearly, Giffords thanked viewers for their prayers and said that she will always remember the trust her constitutents placed in her.

Giffords, who is Jewish and has been a mamber of a local synagogue, was shot in the head at a Jan. 8, 2011 meet-the-constituents event outside a supermarket in Tucson. The gunman, Jared Loughner, who suffers from mental illness, killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Giffords.

In the video, Giffords said she didn’t “remember much from that horrible day.”

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