Olympia temple becomes sanctuary congregation

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Temple Beth Hatfiloh in Olympia is now a haven for refugees.

"We are prepared to offer physical sanctuary,” said Rabbi Seth Goldstein.

Goldstein said his congregation has been working on the move for months, teaming up with a dozen other fellowships in the South Sound.

"I recognize that there's a lot of fear and concern out there, but at the same time, I believe we have a moral imperative as (a) faith community, as really Americans, to be open, to be welcoming,” he said.

Congregation members who attended the event said they felt the same way.

"Many of the families in our congregation were refugees as well,” said Nancy Snyder.

"We're very happy to have this opportunity to open our building to possibly help,” said Beth Halpern.

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So far this year in Washington, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials detained more 1,600 undocumented immigrants.

KIRO 7 asked Goldstein if any of those people plan to stay at the temple.

"There isn't anything specifically pending, but we are making this available that… should the need arise, that we’ll be ready,” he said.

Other surrounding congregations took similar steps by opening their doors. Jose Robles, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, sought sanctuary at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Seattle in June.

"We're afraid at any point in time they can just come in and take him in and separate a family,” said his daughter, Brenda Robles.

On Wednesday, church workers said that months later, Robles is still staying there.

Goldstein said he hopes it doesn't come to that point in Olympia, but, if it does, the temple is there to help.

"The ability to be a haven for people and to be able to welcome people in who are facing challenges elsewhere, it's extremely important,” he said.

Goldstein said religious buildings are sensitive locations, so ICE officials generally don't go inside. If a situation ever arose, he said they wouldn't do anything to break the law.