T’ruah Joins Jewish Organizations Urging Israel Not to Deport Asylum Seekers

RELEASE DATE: November 28, 2017

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 concerned that while in most of the western world, refugee acceptance rates for Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers average as high as 56-84%, in Israel acceptance rates remain below 1%.

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,  Ameinu

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, Rabbinical School of Hebrew College

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, National Council of Jewish Women

Yehuda Kurtzer – President, Shalom Hartman Institute of North America

Rabbi Asher Lopatin – President, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School

Karen R. Mock – President, JSpaceCanada

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