With all the troubling things out there, let us all take a moment to recognize the many blessings we have. On this wonderful day that celebrates our bounty let’s find room to be thankful for what we have and resolve to share with those less fortunate in the year ahead.
The gift of our presence to another person is among the greatest presents we can share. Give to the cause that supports others and makes your heart feel gladness and deepen relationships with those around you.
I keep repeating that thought as I hear Americans clamoring to shut the doors to Syrian refugees.It is about fear of terrorists infiltrators I have been told.I am fearful too, but I am fearful that we risk losing our way and our fear for our security are making us xenophobic and racist in ways not seen since the Japanese were interred in American Concentration camps and Jews were returned to Germany for extermination.I am fearful that we risk losing the moral bearings that have been our guiding star.I am fearful that the principles upon which our country was founded are becoming empty words of a time gone by.
We cannot let fear overwhelm us.We claim the words of Emma Lazarus, immortalized at the Statue of Liberty. We welcome the tired and poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free.The Syrian refugees certainly fit that description and so did we.We were once considered the refuse of the world, each of us with an ancestor who came here for the chance at a better life. When lives are hanging in the balance, how can we turn our backs?The US has a very robust process in place to screen immigrants and the total number of people who endure this almost two-year procedure is small.We are more than able to absorb these people.We can save their lives.
There is a war underway.And war is a frightening prospect.There are extremists who view us as an enemy to be destroyed.Our defenders have done an amazing job protecting us thus far.There will be attempted attacks on our soil, and some may even be successful.We need to be cautious and alert in defending ourselves. They can hurt us, but they cannot defeat us.Only we can do that.If we turn our backs on our own core principles, these extremists win an important victory.If we no longer believe in what makes us great, then we are great no longer.I fear that more than anything else.
I urge everyone who believes in our nation to write both Congressperson, Senator and Governor and urge them to defeat measures that close us off from helping refugees.Support a robust vetting process that is already in place and support groups like HIAS who are dedicated to helping refugees get started here in America.Then we can still hold our heads up high and ask that God Bless America.
We, the undersigned Jewish organizations, write to express support for refugee resettlement. We urge you to oppose any legislative proposals that aim to halt U.S. resettlement efforts or restrict funding for any groups of refugees, include Syrian refugees.
In 1939, the United States refused to let the S.S. St. Louis dock in our country, sending over 900 Jewish refugees back to Europe, where many died in concentration camps. That moment was a stain on the history of our country — a tragic decision made in a political climate of deep fear, suspicion, and antisemitism.
Last week’s devastating attacks in Paris and Beirut are examples of the brutal violence that Syrian refugees are fleeing. We are disheartened to see many U.S. politicians citing these tragic events as a reason to put safe haven further out of reach for refugees. At this critical moment, when there are more refugees and displaced persons than at any time since World War II, we must protect refugees and asylum seekers, not scapegoat them.
The U.S. government has extensive security measures in place to distinguish between those fleeing violence and those seeking to commit it. In fact, refugees are the most thoroughly vetted of all types of immigrants entering the country. Security is an important part of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, as it must be, but so is compassion.
In 1939, our country turned away victims of persecution and violence. We implore you to not make that same mistake today.
American Jewish Committee (AJC)
Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies (AJFCA)
Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR)
Habonim D’ror North America
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Jewish Labor Committee
National Council of Jewish Women
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Union for Reform Judaism
In this prayer that follows the Shema in our evening service we acknowledge we are vulnerable and seek the loving embrace of the Divine to shelter us and care for us as we sleep. May we all find loving arms to hold us as we hold others. Shabbat Shalom.
Our prayers are with the victims of the horrible terrorist attacks across Paris. Now is the time to grieve. The natural reaction is to strike back and avenge the carnage. But before we do, let’s pause and consider our actions, making them deliberate and thoughtful, to do more than lash out and punish. Who is the enemy and how do we best work to defeat them in the long-term war of ideologies in which we are engaged?
It is enticing to react and retaliate, but violence untargeted or mistargeted will serve to create more victims and foment more hatred. The threats are real, but we need to know who the adversary is and the most effective ways to combat the enemy. Precipitous action will do far more harm than good.
Sadly, there are those who are struggle to support the French, seeing this tragedy as an opportunity to say “turnabout is fair play” due to perceived and real anti-Semitism in France. We are better than that. The Jewish values of Chesed and Rachamim compel us to reach out and provide comfort and support. Our compassion helps us to rise above all kinds of hatred and Judaism becomes a beacon of light to the Nations.