This statement of the Jewish Community Relations Council on refugees and immigrants was unanimously approved by the Board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg at its meeting on February 2, following the White House Executive Order of January 29, 2017.
Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg Statement on the President’s Refugee & Immigrant Executive Order
Deeply rooted in our tradition, faith, and values, we are a people of immigrants and refugees. Throughout our history, we have often been the stranger in a strange land. We have been persecuted and attacked simply for being the Other. The value our faith has taught us is not to do to others as they have frequently done to us, but rather to always do for others as we hope they will do for us. In particular, we choose to welcome those who seek shelter and safety, and the freedom of living in a democratic nation.
Our religious tradition repeatedly forbids us from oppressing the stranger. Exodus 22:21 commands us: “And you shall not wrong a stranger, neither shall you oppress them; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” We are told: “Do not return an oppressed person to his bondage. He shall live with you in the place that he chooses.” (Deuteronomy 23:16-17). Strangers welcomed Abraham and Sarah on their journey through Canaan; they in turn welcomed strangers into their tent and were told of the coming of their son Isaac; strangers pulled Moses from the Nile and set in motion our exodus from slavery to freedom.
We denounce in the strongest terms the Executive Order of January 29, 2017 by President Trump on immigrants and refugees. The order bars entry of all Syrian refugees, imposing an essentially religious test for entry to the U.S., and refusing entry to any individual coming from a list of majority-Muslim nations—betraying even those individuals who have supported our nation's military efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Jewish institutions throughout the US have overwhelmingly and consistently advocated for the rights of immigrants. We call on the US government to reject policy proposals that would halt, limit, or curtail refugee resettlement in the U.S. or prioritize certain refugees over others. Locally, Jews have and will continue to support the human rights of Muslim and other immigrants, refugees, asylum-seekers and others yearning for the opportunity for a better life that we know the United States, at its best, can provide. As we once welcomed Russian Jews who fled Soviet oppression, so too we welcome those who flee oppression today.
We completely reject the targeting of individuals based on their religion as an affront to fundamental Jewish values. We are all enriched by the diverse set of experiences that immigrants bring to our society. We see it not only throughout our economy and educational system, but also in our synagogues, camps, schools, and institutions where people of diverse backgrounds, countries of origin and experiences come together.
This executive order gives credence and fuel to those stoking the flames of religious hatred, making citizens of every nation on earth, including the United States, less safe for years to come.