Letters | Oct. 17, 2019


Many were rejected at Ellis Island

Regarding “Immigration rule challenged in Maryland” (Oct. 10) Guila Franklin Siegel of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington claims that many of our ancestors could not have been granted access to the United States if they posed a burden on public resources. She should go to the National Archives to see the ships’ manifests which documented the entry of our ancestors to see the qualifications they had to present before entry was granted:They needed a letter from someone in the

United States to which they were headed and they needed $25. Finally, at Ellis Island, they had to pass a physical exam.

The manifest also lists many other details about their origins, languages, skills, etc. All of this was intended to minimize the risk of vagrancy because there were few public resources. The brutal selection process did not take place on Ellis Island.


The immigrants were selected at the port of embarkation because any immigrant who later failed to gain entry at Ellis Island was to be returned to the country of origin at the company’s expense. Many people were rejected at Ellis Island and returned to Europe because of evidence of Trachoma, a disease of the eye. So our ancestors did not just “walk in through Ellis Island”.


If the leader doesn’t fit the prayer

In response to “We need to update the prayer for our country” (Voices, Oct. 10), Joel Rubin could not have written a piece that is more timely. As I was reciting the Prayer for our Country at the Yom Kippur service at my synagogue, I had to resist the temptation to scream out in protest. How could our “leader,” Donald Trump, have “wisdom” to make the right decisions on my behalf?

It should be common sense to everyone, regardless of political party, that when a president publicly asks a foreign country to meddle in our own country’s elections for his personal gain, that is not acting in the country’s national interest.

Neither Trump’s Jewish family members, nor his decision to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem, should become an excuse to dismiss a clear and present danger. As former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean has stated, Trump’s behavior makes Nixon look like a “choir boy.”


Court decision contrary to Jewish values

I was profoundly disappointed to read about the case of the Seventh Day Adventist who was not allowed to have Saturday as a day off at the Hebrew Home (“Judge rules for Hebrew Home in religious accommodation case,” Oct. 3).

Surely if the employee was Jewish and shomer Shabbat the Hebrew Home would allow them to take Saturday off. Does the Jewish community not allow the same arrangement for non-Jews as it would expect for Jewish staff?

While the civil law allows religious institutions to practice religious discrimination, our community should know better. While the Hebrew Home may be “very pleased with the decision,” as you reported, I find it contrary to Jewish values. On Yom Kippur many of our congregations read from Leviticus the command to treat fairly the non-Jews in our midst. Clearly this should apply to the Jewish workplace. We can do better as a Jewish community.

Chevy Chase

Hiding behind Title VII

Regarding “Judge rules for Hebrew Home in religious accommodation case” (Oct. 3), the essence of this case is that a Seventh-Day Adventist geriatric nurse who wished to observe her Shabbat was denied based on Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act because this act does not cover religious institutions such as the Hebrew Home.

This decision is a shanda (a disgrace). A recent publication, “Religious Accommodation in the Workplace: Your Rights and Obligations,” by The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; Institute for Public Affairs describes how employers are to try to accommodate employees based on their religious preferences. Excerpts include the following:

1. Federal law requires an employer to “reasonably accommodate” an
employee’s religious observances, practices and beliefs unless the
employer can show that
accommodation would cause an “undue hardship” to the employer’s business.

2. Essentially, an employer must attempt to create a structure permitting employees to practice their religious beliefs while still maintaining their jobs.

3. If the employer claims that accommodation is not feasible because it would result in undue hardship, the employer must demonstrate an actual effect that accommodation would have on the business.

4. The obligation that an employer reasonably accommodate the religious
needs of employees includes Sabbath observance…. Some examples of possible accommodation without causing “undue hardship” include voluntary substitutions, flexible scheduling, lateral transfers, and change of job assignments. An employer could allow an employee who is a Sabbath observer to work longer hours on Monday through Thursday to enable the employee to leave early on Friday to be home for the Sabbath.

From these points, it appears that the Hebrew Home was simply hiding behind Title VII and did not try (based on the judge’s decision) to work out an accommodation for the geriatric nurse.

Is this the way a Shabbat-observing Jew should be treated if he or she worked for a Catholic institution?


Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here