NC Rabbis Call for Immigration Justice

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Dear NC Elected Representatives,

Inspired by the experience of the Jewish people throughout history and confirmed by the Torah’s repeated commandments to protect the immigrant, we rabbis of North Carolina, along with Carolina Jews for Justice, call upon the United States government to uphold the highest ideals of our democracy and the founding principles of our nation.

This season in the Jewish calendar is known as bein ha’metzarim – Between the Narrow Places. The three weeks between the 17th of the Jewish month of Tammuz and the 9th of the month of Av, corresponding to June 30-July 21, commemorate the destruction of the holy Temples in Jerusalem and the exiles of our people which led to our wandering as immigrants through the world. It is a time for collective reflection on how our own actions and behaviors impact the vulnerability of society. Our Sages of Blessed Memory taught that the first Temple was destroyed as a result of idolatry and the second Temple as a result of unjustifiable hatred; we see in the rhetoric and policies of this administration the idolatry of nationalism and unjustifiable hatred towards the immigrant.

So integral and ancient is the immigrant experience in the culture of the Jewish people that our sacred Scripture commands us: “Do not oppress the immigrant, because you know the experience of the immigrant,” (Exodus 23:9). So essential is the call to empathy in the tradition of the Jewish religion that our sacred Scripture commands us: “You must love the immigrant, because you were immigrants,” (Deuteronomy 10:19). So vital is the call to justice in the Jewish religion, that our sacred Scripture reminds us: “Cursed is one who subverts the rights of an immigrant,” (Deuteronomy 27:19).

Respect of just law is vital in any functioning society. Those opposed to the policies enacted at our borders do not seek to subvert the law, nor do we wish to permit criminals to freely pass through our lands. As a sovereign nation we have the right and responsibility to protect our borders, and we also have a responsibility as a democratic nation to protect the rights of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. We recognize in this season of bein ha’metzarim – Between the Narrow Places – that our government views itself as situated between a rock and a hard place. However, based on our faith, our traditions, and on the compassion in our hearts, our moral compass demands that our nation uphold God’s eternal call to empathy.

We ask that our policy makers begin with immediate reunification of families who have been separated at the border. We call for an immediate end to detention camps, and an end to the policy of “Zero Tolerance,” especially the criminalization of migrants. We ask for a clear process for asylum seekers, and that the government meet the 2018 Presidential Determination for refugee resettlement.

As leaders in the Jewish community deeply influenced by the moral call throughout our sacred Scriptures, by the memory of our immigrant experiences, and by the memory and trauma of the inhumane treatment of our ancestors, we stand opposed to the immoral and unjust policies that have resulted in family separation and detention. We believe the proper way to navigate the path Between the Narrow Places is to commit to love and compassion in guiding our national policies.

We believe in a higher call to moral action which begins with respecting the divine spark in every human being, especially the future generation of the world.

Respectfully,

Rabbi Joshua Ben-Gideon - Greensboro
Geoffrey Claussen - Greensboro
Andrew Vogel Ettin - Pfafftown
Rabbi Murray Ezring - Charlotte
Rabbi Frank Fischer - Chapel Hill
John Friedman - Durham
Fred Guttman - Greensboro
Jackie Itzkovitz - Asheville
Rabbi Steven J. Kirschner - Raleigh
Rabbi Asher Knight - Charlotte
Batsheva Meiri - Asheville
Judy Schindler - Charlotte
Rabbi Melissa B. Simon - Chapel Hill
Rabbi Rachel Smookler - Charlotte
Jenny Solomon - Raleigh