As members of Congress and presidential candidates call for a halting of resettlement of refugees from the war-torn Middle East, rabbis from across the country signed a letter urging protection for the “world’s most vulnerable” peoples.
On Dec. 2, HIAS, which aids in resettling refugees in the United States, delivered a letter to all members of Congress signed by 1,216 American rabbis who called upon the government to “exercise moral leadership for the protection of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.”
Recalling the turning back of the S.S. St. Louis, in which the United States essentially sent 900 Jewish refugees back to Europe, where many ultimately perished in concentration camps during World War II, the letter reads, in part: “In 1939, our country could not tell the difference between an actual enemy and the victims of an enemy. In 2015, let us not make the same mistake.”
Among the area rabbis who added their signatures are Rabbi Rachel Ackerman of Temple Shalom; Rabbah Arlene Berger of Olney Kehila; Rabbi Michael Holzman of Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation; and Maharat Ruth Friedman of Ohev Sholom-The National Synagogue.
“Some U.S. politicians are threatening to close our doors to refugees,” said HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield in a statement. “This is a false solution to a real problem, conflating terror with those who flee it. By fostering intolerance, such words and deeds play right into the hands of our enemies and weaken our national character.”
Added Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, vice president of community engagement for the organization, “As rabbis, it is important to acknowledge that this is a frightening time in our world, but with confidence we can, and must, still welcome the stranger. We know all too well from our own recent history that the cost of not doing so can be tragically high.”