I entered Shabbat and emerged from Shabbat heartsick at news of Trump's ban on Muslims and refugees entering this country. That he would issue such a ban at all is horrifying. That he did so on a day of remembrance of the wholesale slaughter of six million souls who were persecuted and killed for their religion (my religion) just makes this dystopian reality more surreal and more appalling.
Trump has suspended entry of all refugees into the United States for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, and blocked entry into this country for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries -- Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- for the next 90 days. His ban also blocks entry for green card holders from those countries.
There are already countless reports of permanent residents of this country held in airports across the country as they tried to return from funerals, travel, or study abroad, and family members of American citizens who sought to come here legally on family visas now facing immediate deportation. These are some of the instances we know about because they're making it into the media; surely there are other stories, equally heart-wrenching, that aren't known to us.
And the Syrian refugee crisis has been called the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. We should be responding to that crisis by welcoming refugees with open arms -- not, God forbid, closing our borders out of fear of people who look different, dress differently, or pray differently than we do.
Can you imagine escaping from wartorn Syria, living in a refugee camp for years, and finally making it through the red tape to be resettled here in a free country -- only to be turned away now by this? (That's exactly what happened to one family -- two parents and four children, one of whom is six years old. That child has been through hell I cannot imagine, and now that hell is prolonged.)
By the time I headed for bed on Saturday evening I was mildly heartened to see that a federal judge has blocked part of Trump's order -- but that's not enough.
In November, ALEPH was the first Jewish organization to insist that if the President requires Muslims to register, we will register with them. The Jewish people have living memory of being refugees barred from entry into nations (including this one) where our lives could have been saved. We of all people should be fighting this unconstitutional and unconscionable executive order with all our might.
This is not the America I want to live in.
The America I want to live in is one where religious freedom is uplifted and cherished -- not one where the person holding the highest office in the land demonizes adherents of any religion or people of any ethnicity.
The America I want to live in is one where refugees are welcomed and embraced -- not one where they risk being sent back to the horrors they fought so hard to escape.
The America I want to live in is a nation of opportunity and freedom -- not one where this kind of bigotry is allowed to stand.
The America I want to live in is the America of Emma Lazarus' poem The New Colossus:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The verse most often repeated in Torah is "love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." The deepest wisdom of my religious tradition demands of us that we welcome refugees, not turn them away.
Torah demands that we love those who are different from us, not persecute them for their differences. My firmly-held principle of deep ecumenism reflects the truth that all religions are paths to the One, and my religious tradition calls me to stand firmly against bigotry and xenophobia in all of its forms.
I am outraged: as a rabbi, as the daughter and granddaughter of immigrants who fled the Holocaust to seek safety on these shores, as an American citizen, and as a human being. This policy is unconscionable. My nation must be better than this.
I donated to the American Civil Liberties Union and to T'ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights after Shabbat ended. Here's a list from HIAS (the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) of ways to help refugees. If you have suggestions of other actions we can take, I welcome them in comments.
It's a new week, friends, and we have work to do.
Although I cited, above, ALEPH's resolution urging all citizens to register as Muslims if the proposed Muslim registry were to come into being, I speak here as an individual, not as co-chair of ALEPH. I am also not speaking here for either of the institutions that employ me, the synagogue or the college. These views are my own.