(The following was delivered as an address on January 8, 2020, at an Interfaith Immigration Coalition vigil for refugees in front of the U.S. District Courthouse in Greenbelt, MD, on behalf of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.)
Good morning. I’m here today representing T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.
We know, all of us here, that Executive Order 13888 is unconstitutional, just another example of the Trump Administration’s cruelty and xenophobia.
As a rabbi, I know this not only because I know wrong and right. I feel this in my bones, in pain from a past in which my people’s lives were scarred over and again by the trauma of dislocation and rejection.
For more twenty-five-hundred years, the Jewish people have known what it means to be adrift. We have long known what it is to be ejected from one home and forced to find a new one — only to have our new home reject us simply for who we are. That experience as refugees inspired the creation nearly 140 years ago of HIAS, one of the parties to today’s lawsuit. It continues to inspire HIAS’s work today on five continents on behalf of refugees from around the world.
As Jews, we know it is our duty to welcome refugees, and to ensure their well being once they make our country their home. It is with us from ancient times. The book of Leviticus says it plainly: “when a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong them. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your own citizens” (Lev. 18:33 – 34). Yet this administration, hiding behind a mask of piety, shows its true face when it encourages state and local governments to discriminate against refugees.
The Biblical book of Lamentations reminds us — all of us — that we know what it is for our eyes to be spent with tears, to feel our hearts in tumult (Lam. 2:11). We know what happens when refugees are left to languish, and we know what we must do: welcome the stranger and ensure their security. We know what we must do: dry the tears and soothe the grief-worn hearts of those who become our neighbors.
Executive Order 13888 makes a mockery of these values. And so, on behalf of my rabbinic and cantorial colleagues at T’ruah, I call on the court to stop the Trump administration’s latest act of bigotry toward those who seek security — for no reason other than that welcoming the stranger is, simply, right.
May this administration come to understand all this, speedily and in our days.
(For more on the lawsuit that this demonstration supported, see the complaint filed in the case.)