There Is No Such Thing as Sanctuary

As of October 2015, sanctuary status was claimed by 326 counties, 32 cities and four states, according to Philippe Weisz, managing attorney of HIAS Pennsylvania. Despite these numbers, Weisz explained that there is actually no such legal entity as “sanctuary,” since the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operates freely. Weisz spoke during the inaugural session of HIAS Pennsylvania’s education series Welcoming the Stranger: Considering Immigration and Refugee Issues from a Jewish Perspective. The series provides background into American law and policy on these issues, as well as teachings on Jewish values. [Read more…]

Jews From Islamic Lands Speak on Muslim Immigration

The president’s travel ban for people from seven Muslim countries (now temporarily suspended by federal judges) has provoked outcries from the liberal community in the United States. Rallies and other acts of dissent have sprung up in most major cities. I last wrote about the response to the travel ban in the general Jewish community. I now seek to learn more from Jews who have lived in Muslim countries. [Read more…]

Anti-Trump Rallies

Protest Poster: "First they came for ..."

Protest Poster: “First they came for …”

Editor’s Note – Events are moving quickly. This initial story will be expanded on over time.

At Philadelphia International Airport and locations throughout the U.S., on Saturday and Sunday thousands of protestors demonstrated against President Trump’s ban on immigrants. There were frequent developments in Washington and the rest of the country as well.

 

Time Line, in Reverse Order

 

Tuesday, January 31st

Tuesday, 8 pm: Trump scheduled to announce his pick for the Supreme Court. This justice could be the crucial vote that decides the legality of Trump’s immigration ban.

Tuesday, Morning/Afternoon: Senate Democrats spoke at length about former Acting Attorney General Sally Yate’s courage in defying Trump. The Republican majority allowed them to speak, even though it delayed the vote to confirm Jeff Sessions as the new Attorney General. That vote is expected to take place on Wednesday, February 1.

Monday, January 30

Monday, Late evening: Yates is replaced by Dana Boente, who immediately reversed her directive. Meanwhile, Yates is still packing up her office after a 27 year career with the Justice Department.

Monday 9 pm: Attorney General Sally Yates has been fired for refusing to defend the ban. Earlier she had sent a letter to her staff explaining the she thought the ban was illegal and unjust. She wrote that the Justice Department would not defend the ban in court. [Read more…]

Faith Rally for Refugees and American Values

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.”

These are the words written on the base of the Statute of Liberty. These are the values that make America great. And today, these are the values that are threatened by Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven blacklisted countries. We must respond — and we will start today with a rally in Battery Park, New York, and a vigil at the Statue of Liberty.

Bring children; bring beautiful signs; bring musical instruments and snacks. The forecast is 45 ° and sunny, and this is a fantastic way to learn about American history and to take civic action.

This issue is not about Republicans or Democrats — it is about the soul of America. Trump’s executive action will not make Americans any safer. We all share real concerns about terrorism. That’s why our nation has rigorous screening procedures in place for all refugees. An American has never been killed in a terror attack on American soil by a person from one of the seven countries that were blacklisted today — and never by a Syrian refugee. Meanwhile, the countries from which the terrorists of 9/11 (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Lebanon) came from were excluded from the ban.

We must stand up against this un-American absurdity!

Schedule of Events
1:30 pm – Rally at Battery Park
3:00 pm – Vigil at the Statue of Liberty

For more information, email Rabbi Ari Hart, co-founder of Uri L’Tzedek: Orthodox Social Justice, or call him at 434-294-9414.

JSPAN Haggadah Supplement: The Immigration Crisis

supplementThe 2016 Jewish Social Policy Action Network Haggadah Supplement edited by Steven Sussman and Kenneth Myers is entitled “The Immigration Crisis: A Pesach Seder Reflection for 2016” and focuses on immigrants and refugees. Their plight calls to us at this season of the Jewish year when we remember that we were exiled from our homeland and enslaved in Egypt for four hundred years, and then stateless nomads for forty years in the wilderness of Sinai, at the mercy of the elements, often losing faith as danger surrounded us.

At your Seder, consider the crisis in Europe and what we can do to relieve the suffering of refugees.

The supplement is now available for download.

[Read more…]

Trump and the Duma Killers: Caught Between Two Extremes

ajcPollLike many Jews I cannot believe that a leading contender for the office of President of the United States is demonizing Mexicans, suggesting a religious test for entry into the United States and proposing a database targeting American Muslims. We have seen this picture before, and it never turns out very well for us.

While this extremist movement — the New Republic uses the term “fascist” — is unfolding in the U.S., we are witnessing a similar and even more radical phenomenon in Israel. In the aftermath of this past July’s brutal firebomb murder of three members of a Palestinian family, including an 18-month-old baby, in the West Bank village of Duma, Israeli security services have arrested nearly 100 young men, described in The Times of Israel as “far-right Orthodox extremists.” The label seems paradoxical, especially when accompanied by photos of smiling young men, each in a full-cover, knitted kippah and other traditional religious garb. The sense of shock and disbelief generated by this violent crime was compounded by the video above, released by Israeli Channel 10, of a Jewish wedding reception that included military weapons, knives and Molotov cocktails being waved in celebration of the Duma massacre.

Of course, not all West Bank settlers are terrorists, nor are all Republicans “Trumpers.” In fact, it may be tempting to dismiss these examples of American and Israeli xenophobia as mere anomalies — but they are not. Both Trump in America and Jewish terrorists in Israel are simply the logical, albeit radical, extension of long-brewing ideological developments. In the case of Trump, it is developments in the Republican Party; in the case of Israel, it is the West Bank settler movement. In both cases, it is time to recognize the insidious antecedents of these two related extremes.

The election of Barack Obama galvanized the right wing of the Republican Party. It shocked the white establishment of the Party and its white working-class supporters, who have been alienated by the many social changes that have taken place in America over the last 50 years. This animus has driven Republicans to stymie everything President Obama has stood for, from health care to gun control to immigration.

The attempt to discredit Obama’s presidency also includes the conspiracy theorists’ “Birther” movement, which is based on the claim that Obama was not born in America and, therefore, is ineligible to be president. Early in the Obama presidency, an article published on the online media website Salon documented the level of support for the Birther movement among Republicans in Congress.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump.

Donald Trump has become the poster child of this movement. He also represents extreme right-wing positions on immigration. For example, he is simply one-upping Representative Steve King (Rep., IA), who, in a 2013 interview with Newsmax, claimed that Mexican immigrants were overwhelmingly drug runners. All told, it would appear that “Trumpism” has deep roots in the extreme positions that have become mainstream in the Republican Party. Trump is, in effect, simply the “über-Republican.”

What then of the Jewish terrorist network emerging among Israeli West Bank settlers? The spiritual headquarters of religious Zionism in Israel and of the West Bank settler movement, in particular, is Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav Kook. This religious seminary was founded in 1924 by the first chief rabbi of what was then Palestine, HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook. The yeshivah’s website pays homage to the founder, noting that HaRav Kook “was the great soul of religious Zionism. He saw in it the process of redemption and the anticipation of the Mashiach (Messiah).”

This form of Zionism is not the political Zionism envisioned by Theodore Herzl and David Ben Gurion. This is a movement that understands the establishment of the State of Israel as a harbinger of the arrival of the Messiah. For some, this eventual messianic kingdom includes Jewish control of the West Bank and Gaza. Therefore, it is no anomaly that, as The Times of Israel reports, the perpetrators of the Duma massacre spray painted the walls of their victims’ home in the West Bank with the words “Yehi ha-melekh ha-mashiach,” “Long live the king messiah.” The truth is that the seeds of the Duma attack were sown many decades ago.

For a powerless people, as the Jewish people were for 2,000 years, a messianic vision offers profound hope in the midst of despair. The problem arises when powerlessness is substituted with the world’s fifth most powerful military. In that case, the march toward the messianic era becomes inexorable. Nothing may impede its progress; any action is acceptable that leads to that goal. Indeed, one West Bank settler, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira of the settlement of Yitzhar, authored a book published in 2009 known as “Torat HaMelech,” “The King’s Torah.” According to the Israeli online media outlet YNet, the book explains that “[h]urting small children makes sense if it’s clear that they’ll grow up to harm us, and in such a situation – the injury will be directed at them of all people.” The perpetrators of the Duma massacre were simply fulfilling Rabbi Shapira’s Torah.

So what is to be done? One thing history has taught us is that extremist, fascist movements always emerge insidiously. There is rarely some spontaneous mass movement. In this gradual process, we are often caught unawares. We think that these tendencies are anomalies advanced by some fringe group. These groups start by pushing boundaries, and when they receive little or no resistance, they push harder. The only way to stop them is to push back — and to push back aggressively, although non-violently. But we must be prepared to do that against any extremist, not only one with flaming orange hair, but also one wearing a kippah.

Trump’s Rhetoric on Immigration Hurts US, Helps ISIL

A K-1 (Fiancee) Visa

A K-1 (Fiancee) Visa

It is a rare day when Dick Cheney and Lindsay Graham are in agreement with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, but Donald Trump’s calls to ban Muslim entry into the U.S. are so absurd and outrageous that he has people on both sides of the aisle railing against him.

In Trump’s simplistic, uninformed world view, the constitutional questions of a religious test to enter the U.S. are of no concern. Neither are details of how one would determine who is a Muslim. Would Trump call for Caucasian or Christian males like himself be barred from theaters, schools, or political gatherings since the majority of mass shooters share his ethnicity or religion?

Ignorant of the thousands of applicants whose visas are denied, revoked, cancelled, or stuck in interminable security checks every day, Trump’s proposed solution accepts the radical’s narrative of religion, exposes his ignorance on the laws and processes of this country, and poses an even greater threat to national security than the national security problems they purport to solve. This latest proposal is much the same as his “solution” for immigration reform in general: build a wall.

The reality is comprehensive inter-agency counter-terrorism screening has been a part of the process for admission of foreign nationals since before 9/11. Since then, the visa issuance process has become vastly more complex. Applicants are screened regardless of the type of visa they apply for, be it as a student, tourist, worker, artist, or under the Visa Waiver Program, or as a permanent resident.

If a case is flagged for review based on law enforcement or intelligence, State Department regulations require a Security Advisory Opinion, or SAO, to be obtained before the foreign national can receive a visa to enter the U.S. The foreign national is run through as many as seven different interconnected government databases. Other federal agencies, including the FBI, CIA, and the NSA are constantly consulted to update visa issuance procedures. The data in these databases is also dynamic, and can be updated quickly in response to new intelligence.

Counter-terrorism screening works, and it happens every day for every type of visa. The refugee screening process is even more exhaustive. It can take between 18 and 24 months and it takes longer to screen refugees because they usually do not have documents with them.

A “security check” is not some pro-forma review done for appearance’s sake, but is instead a thorough screening to determine whether this person will be allowed into the U.S. They are performed by government agents who take their job very seriously. Trump’s rhetoric is a slap in the face of these dedicated public servants.

Many politicians are questioning “fiancee” (K-1) visa procedures. This is also a misguided inquiry. The issue is counter-terrorism screening, not the particular visa process. And counter-terrorism screening already happens for all visas. While no system is perfect, shutting the whole thing down actually enhances the threat to America. Do Trump & Co. really think the complex security check process run and maintained by experienced officials would have been established if it would have been easier to just stop immigration?

Perhaps more importantly is the fact that Trump’s proposal only feeds into the problem that he is trying to address. National security specialist Benjamin Wittes noted that rejecting refugees, particularly on the basis of their religion or national origin, actually presents ISIL and other extremist groups fodder for their narrative of an apocalyptic clash of civilizations between Islam and the West. ISIL profits from Trump rhetoric. Moreover, such a call would break up families, hinder business and effectively build a wall from the rest of the world.

Terrorism has multiple causes. Pretending it can be stopped by banning Muslim entry is a fantasy soundbite made to get ratings. But real lives are at stake here. This is not the time for a knee-jerk reaction.

A robust background check system — which we already have — must be considered as one part of a broader national security strategy. Rejecting xenophobia in favor of actually countering ISIL is not just the right thing to do — it is also the safer one.

New Year’s 3 Most Important Social Issues

— by Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom, President of JSPAN

The new Jewish year is a time to focus our thoughts on weighty matters of society’s concerns. We are taught that as individuals and as nations, we are responsible for our decisions that enhance or impede human freedom and the cause of justice.

In a striking image, we are reminded of the importance of every deed. Life is pictured as a balance scale: The pans are evenly loaded, with good deeds in one, and evil deeds in the other. And the next decision we make, the next act we take, will tip the scale one way or the other. Will it be to good? Or to evil?

And so it is for nations as well. Our next act will impact not only our individual lives, but the life of the nation, too, for good, or for ill.

What does this quaint image of the balance scale say to us, living in these precarious times, filled with so much violence and the threat of violence, so much injustice and so many social problems that defy solution? Do we throw our hands up in despair? Or do we get involved, believing that our righteous deed, no matter how small, can make a difference?

I became involved in JSPAN because I believe that we each have the power to improve the world with our deeds. As Jews, it is an obligation, a mitzvah, a sacred responsibility. Together, our deeds are bundled together and become transformative in ways we cannot imagine.

Jewish tradition demands of us that we be activists for those whom society has abandoned. We speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. We speak for those who are weak, shunned, and made invisible.

I believe there are three key issues we need to focus on, at this time, from the standpoint of social justice.

Michael_Brown_Jr

Michael Brown.

Black Lives Matter

Over the last year the names of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray became household words. Why did their deaths resonate so powerfully? Was it not because they were betrayed by the very law enforcement establishment that is supposed to protect all Americans?

Some ask, why is it not enough to say “All Lives Matter”? The reason is that not all lives are treated equally. The cry “Black Lives Matter” reminds us that 150 years after the Civil War ended, even with an African-American president of the United States, to be Black in America is to live, unavoidably, in fear of the authorities, based on the belief that there are two sets of rules, one for White Americans and another for Black. This is unacceptable.

Our tradition teaches us that all human beings are created equal. We are taught that a legal system must treat each person equally and judge each person on the merits of his or her case. We must work for a society that makes this ideal a reality, and ally ourselves with others who are in the forefront of this struggle. It is overdue.

Income Inequality

In the aftermath of the “Great Recession” of 2008 and 2009, the consolidation of wealth among the few is breathtaking. For many Americans, jobs today are harder, less secure and less lucrative. In contrast to the wealthiest, they have lost ground economically. Unions, once the engine that created equity and dignity for working men and women see their membership dwindling and their legal protections disappearing. Government leaders balk at the idea of raising the “minimum wage” to be a “minimum living wage.” Politicians fall over themselves in efforts to diminish the safety net that guarantees that the least able among us can live with dignity.

Our tradition teaches us that each person has the right to a fair wage, and that no one can be truly free without the social guarantee of economic stability for all.

Immigration

America is a nation of immigrants. It is immigration that has made this country great.

Instead of acknowledging our immigrant past, and honoring those who, today, like our ancestors, are desperate to escape oppression and eager to embrace a brighter economic future for their children, we hear fear-mongering demagogues demean not only “illegal immigrants” but whole nations and cultures. They are even ready to jettison the Constitution and its clear definition of American citizenship in their reckless diatribes against immigrants.

Even with the lessons of the Holocaust and the shuttered American Golden Door to victims of Nazi oppression, our leaders are not willing to be part of the solution to the greatest humanitarian refugee problem facing the world today in the Middle East.

The Bible reminds us many times that we were foreigners in a foreign land. We know the soul of the stranger, the alien, the “illegal.” We Jews would not be here in America but for a wise ancestor who chose the promise of the unknown over the resigned inertia of the familiar. If the gates of America had been open during World War II under the same terms as the pre-1924 golden era of immigration, who knows how many Jews might have been saved from annihilation by the Nazis?

Progressive liberalism is born not of political currency but of prophetic mandate. It is a passion for justice that is the soul of who we are.

We must work so that our individual and collective actions will tilt the scale of justice toward security and dignity for all Americans. In that way, we will continue to evolve into a nation worthy of our ideals.

“This Immigration Plan Will Not Be Televised”

None of the major networks chose to televise the President’s signature immigration plan. We believe that whether or not you support the President’s ideas, knowing the details is very important, so we present the full text and of his address followed by comments for and against by various Jewish groups.

immigrationinfolong

— President Barack Obama

By fellow Americans, tonight, I’d like to talk with you about immigration.

For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities –- people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose.

But today, our immigration system is broken — and everybody knows it.

Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.
It’s been this way for decades. And for decades, we haven’t done much about it.

When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders. Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although this summer, there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.

Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix, and last year, 68 Democrats, Republicans, and independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise. But it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.

Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote.

[Read more…]

Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania Endorses Daylin Leach


Official campaign video.

— by David S. Broida, William Epstein, Burt Siegel and Jill Zipin (steering committee of Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania)

State Senator Daylin Leach is the candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Pennsylvania’s 13th congressional district who best reflects democratic as well as Jewish values. Senator Leach’s long and unwavering record of support of women and families is well known, and he will continue to work to uphold and defend the civil rights of all people.

He supports increased funding for our public schools as he believes all children need and deserve a good education. He understands, as do we, that the path to economic prosperity lies in providing our children with the best education possible.

More after the jump.
Senator Leach also has championed a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million  undocumented immigrants who live in this country. Such a pathway is both a Jewish and American value and is good for the prosperity of our nation. He also is a passionate supporter of a strong and a secure Israel.

We believe that Senator Leach will be the  best advocate for the constituents of Pennsylvania’s 13th congressional district. We are pleased to add our voice to those of the many others who look forward to his victory in the May 20 democratic primary.


Update: February 7, 2014 MoveOn Endorsement

Here’s what a few MoveOn members across Pennsylvania’s 13th district had to share about Daylin:

  • “Daylin Leach is a true progressive with exceptional people skills. His sense of fair play coupled with a great sense of humor will be able to build bridges and form much-needed alliances in Congress-without compromising his principles.”
    — Susan G., Lansdale, PA
  • “I know Daylin personally. While he’s often known for his wit, he is incredibly intelligent, a tireless advocate for progressive causes, and the type of person you would actually want in Congress.”
    — Tony H., Bridgeport, PA
  • “Daylin has been my PA state senator and he is a solid progressive voice and vote. He is also a fearless progressive leader in our area and a really good guy. Doesn’t hurt that he is really smart and funny, and comes from humble beginnings so he understands the life lived by most people.”
    — Mary Ann H., King of Prussia, PA
  • “Daylin Leach is one of the most forward progressive thinkers in Pennsylvania. As a leader in public education, the environment, women’s rights, LGBT equality, and tax fairness, Daylin is bold, unapologetic, and takes action. He has given us a light at the end of the apathetic tunnel-the antithesis of the do-nothing Congress of the past two years. I endorse Senator Leach and look forward to calling him Representative Leach in 2015.”
    — Eric E., King of Prussia, PA