T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights condemns in the strongest terms today’s executive order, which continues to effectively close our borders to Muslims, and flagrantly violates America’s longstanding, values-driven commitment to serving as a safe haven for refugees. Masked as an effort to ensure national security, this new executive order is more of the same Islamophobia that targets Muslims by reinstating the discredited vetting procedures, established after September 11, 2001, aimed at men from Muslim-majority countries. Before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last month, the White House was unable to provide any evidence that acts of terrorism had been committed by the nationals of seven countries initially designated in the first executive order. Furthermore, we oppose any attempts to impose a “values test” on prospective immigrants as a backdoor method of screening on the basis of religion.
This February, 19 T’ruah rabbis put their bodies on their line and were arrested outside the Trump International Hotel protesting the previous version of this ban. Our rabbis will continue protesting this new ban, even if it means putting our bodies on the line once again.
As Jews, who know what it means to be targeted by discriminatory laws, we stand firmly with refugees fleeing war, persecution, and economic strife. For many in our American Jewish community, witnessing these refugees and the backlash inspired by some nativists reminds us of our own families who arrived on America’s shores in the early 20th century. While some were able to immigrate successfully, others were tragically left behind with the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, a law aimed at keeping the United States free of immigrant populations deemed to be “suspicious” or “dangerous”, including Jews, Italians, and Asians. Tragically, this policy shift led to disastrous consequences when many people in our community perished after being ruthlessly turned away from our shores.
On more than 36 occasions the Torah declares that our experience as strangers in the land of Egypt obligates us to care for the most vulnerable among us; particularly the sojourners, migrants, and immigrants seeking refuge in our midst. Abraham and Sarah, who welcomed three unknown travelers into their home, modelled hachnasat orchim–welcoming guests–which the Talmud declared to be even more important than speaking to God. And the reviled tribe of Amalek achieved its wicked status in the annals of Jewish history by attacking the most vulnerable of the Israelites fleeing Egypt.
We are proud that so many of T’ruah’s 1,800 rabbis are following the example of Abraham and Sarah by standing in solidarity with immigrants and refugees, including the Muslim, Arab, and Asian communities most directly affected by this executive order. We pledge to amplify the voices of our rabbis in their localities, and to join anticipated legal challenges led by our allies in the civil rights community.
The Jewish community understands all too well the danger of compromising the civil liberties of any national, ethnic or religious group, or of holding entire groups collectively responsible for the actions of individuals. America is great when we unite around the aspirational values of inclusion, tolerance and freedom. And we owe great thanks to the millions of immigrants who have made countless contributions to every single aspect of this country’s greatness. Today’s executive order undermines our values and weakens the moral fiber upon which our nation stands.