For even the most selfish reasons, it is time for the Jewish community, each of us — individually and collectively through our institutions and organizations–to act in support of refugee immigration. “ You shall not wrong nor oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:20) From Biblical times through our modern history, we know what it means to be strangers in a strange land, to be oppressed, to be afraid, to be haunted and hunted. This message is repeated at least 36 times in the Bible, with numerous commentaries across the centuries. We repeat the message at Passover. It is taught to our children. It is clear, decisive and commanding.
Today, we must all be galvanized in our support of the U.S. Refugees Admissions Program. On December 2nd, HIAS delivered such a statement of support to all members of Congress signed by one thousand rabbis. You can search for your rabbis’ name here. Jewish organizations from AJC to Workmen’s Circle have signed on to similar campaigns.
“We Are One” was a popular slogan and rallying cry in a long-gone era of UJA Campaigns. It is still invoked, but hardly with the same emphatic expression as so many complex and divisive issues challenge our unity.
Following this year’s vitriolic debates on the Iran nuclear deal our community seems more divided than ever. It is understandable and even wise to hear voices encouraging the US to have strong safeguards in place which screen refugees. We have them now. Safeguards must not be barriers as they were in WWII, when Jewish refugees could not qualify for refugee resettlement because of State Department hurdles. We know the consequences of these hurdles.
We Are One should once again be our rallying cry to ensure that the US remains a beacon to refugees. Please work with your local JCRC, HIAS or other Jewish organization to ask how you can help them fulfill our responsibility to protect the rights of the stranger.