Today T’ruah joined 24 other leaders of the North American Jewish community who sent a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, urging Israel not to deport African asylum seekers, but rather to let North American Jews help in addressing the issue. The letter followed the Israeli government’s announcement last week of its plans to deport tens of thousands of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers, which include thousands of survivors of the Darfuri genocide and other victims of persecution. The text of the letter follows.
Public Letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu on Announcement of Plans to Deport Eritrean and Sudanese Asylum Seekers
November 28, 2017 | 10 Kislev 5777
Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,
As North American Jews and as friends of Israel, we are deeply concerned about your recent announcement of plans to deport tens of thousands of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers from Israel.
We are disturbed by reports from numerous sources that have shown that asylum seekers who have thus far “self-deported” from Israel have not found safety and protection in the countries to which they self-deported, be they their countries of origin – Eritrea or Sudan – or the third-party countries of Uganda and Rwanda. We know that many such individuals are no longer among the living.
We are concerned that if you move forward with these plans, the lives of thousands of individuals will be put in jeopardy, and the name of the Jewish State and the Jewish People will be irreparably stained.
As a people who were once refugees, and were once strangers in a strange land, we believe we have a special obligation toward refugees, whatever their religion or race. As a leading signatory to the International Convention on the Status of Refugees (1951), and moreover as a Jewish State founded by Jewish refugees, we believe Israel should be a model for the positive treatment of refugees.
We therefore call upon you to reconsider your plans to deport tens of thousands of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers. We urge you to respect the rights of asylum seekers and refugees as enshrined in the International Refugee Convention and in Jewish law and values, and to allow those asylum seekers already residing in Israel to live in dignity until it is truly safe for them to return. We further commit ourselves and offer our hand in support in any way that we can help in coping with the challenges of the refugee crisis.
Please do not deport these individuals who have sought refuge among the Jewish People, but rather let us work together in addressing the burdens and challenges of our moral obligations.
“You shall not hand over to their master a slave who has sought refuge with you from their master. They shall live with you in your midst, in the place which they shall choose in one of your towns where it is good for them; you shall not mistreat them.” (Deuteronomy 23:16-17)
Jeremy Ben-Ami – President, J Street
Kenneth Bob – President, Am
Susan Freudenheim – Executive Director, Jewish World Watch
Eitan Goldstein – Mazkir Klali, Habonim Dror North America
Rabbi Seth Goldstein – President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Paul Golin – Executive Director, Society for Humanistic Judaism
Rabbi Art Green – Rector, Rab
Rabbi Jill Jacobs – Executive Director, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Mark Hetfield – President and CEO, HIAS
Alexis Karpf – General Secretary, Hashomer Hatzair North America
Nancy K. Kaufman – CEO, Nati
Yehuda Kurtzer – President, Shalom Hartman Institute of North America
Rabbi Asher Lopatin – President, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School
Karen R. Mock – President, J
Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner – Director, Religious Action Center and Senior Vice President, Union for Reform Judaism
Jonathan Rosenblum – Executive Director, Jewish Labor Committee
Reuben D. Rotman – President & Chief Executive Officer, Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies
Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D. – President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities
Paul Scham – President, Partners for Progressive Israel
Rabbi Philip Scheim – President, Rabbinical Assembly
Daniel Schild – Co-Chair, CHAI: Canadians Supporting Asylum Seekers in Israel
Stephen Slater – Co-Founder and Co-Chair, Right Now: Advocates for Asylum Seekers in Israel
Daniel Sokatch – CEO, New Israel Fund
Rabbi Joshua Weinberg – President, ARZA
Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz