This Wednesday, February 8, rabbinical students, rabbis, lay leaders, and people of all faiths and backgrounds will gather together at the chapel at Terminal 4 at JFK Airport for a morning of prayer and Torah learning to offer spiritual support for those refugees who are yearning to reach our shores. [Read more…]
I keep repeating that thought as I hear Americans clamoring to shut the doors to Syrian refugees. It is about fear of terrorists infiltrators I have been told. I am fearful too, but I am fearful that we risk losing our way and that our fear for our security are making us xenophobic and racist in ways not seen since the Japanese were interred in American Concentration camps and Jews were returned to Germany for extermination. I am fearful that we risk losing the moral bearings that have been our guiding star. I am fearful that the principles upon which our country was founded are becoming empty words of a time gone by.
We cannot let fear overwhelm us. We claim the words of Emma Lazarus, immortalized at the Statue of Liberty. We welcome the tired and poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free. The Syrian refugees certainly fit that description and so did we. We were once considered the refuse of the world, each of us with an ancestor who came here for the chance at a better life. When lives are hanging in the balance, how can we turn our backs? The US has a very robust process in place to screen immigrants and the total number of people who endure this almost two-year procedure is small. We are more than able to absorb these people. We can save their lives.
There is a war underway. And war is a frightening prospect. There are extremists who view us as an enemy to be destroyed. Our defenders have done an amazing job protecting us thus far. There will be attempted attacks on our soil, and some may be successful. We need to be cautious and alert in defending ourselves. They can hurt us, however they cannot defeat us. Only we can do that. If we turn our backs on our own core principles, these extremists win an important victory. If we no longer believe in what makes us great, then we are great no longer. I fear that more than anything else.
I urge everyone who believes in our nation to write both Congressperson, Senator and Governor and urge them to defeat measures that close us off from helping refugees. Support a robust vetting process that is already in place and support groups like HIAS who are dedicated to helping refugees get started here in America. Then we can still hold our heads up high and ask that God Bless America.