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Letter opposing nomination of Ronald Mortensen

Endorsement

 

Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association were among sixteen national Jewish organizations signing onto a letter of opposition to the nomination of Ronald Mortensen, an anti-immigrant extremist, as assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

Jewish Communal Letter on Refugee Admissions

Endorsement

 

Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association were among the 36 Jewish organizations that signed onto a letter urging President Trump to support a safe and strong U.S. refugee admissions program that represents the best of America.

Joint Statement on Immigration

News

The leadership of Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association condemn with horror the travesty that has become our immigration system under the administration of U.S. President Donald J. Trump. The “zero tolerance” policy that first saw young children ripped away from their parents as they attempted to seek asylum and safety in the United States—and now is holding families locked up in detention—is immoral and a disgrace to the American and Jewish values we hold dear. With the fate of thousands of children still separated from their parents in doubt, we are raising our collective voices in protest.

Today’s Supreme Court ruling upholds President Trump’s ban on immigrants entering the country from five majority Muslim nations—a ban that is racist, cruel and further abandons America’s legacy as a welcoming country, a nation of immigrants and a home to people of all faiths.

As Jews, we recall our history as oppressed and wandering people who have sought refuge in many places over the centuries, including in the United States. We also recall our sacred texts that exhort us over and over again to welcome the stranger and to care for the immigrant in our midst. While we understand the need for safe and secure borders, we do not agree that immigration is by definition a threat to us or to our economy.

We Reconstructionist Jews see the erosion of welcome, the rule of law and due process, and the institution of anti-Muslim, anti-Latino and anti-immigrant policies as evidence of a severe moral decline. We call on Congress to enact real immigration reform, re-opening the doors that this administration is attempting to slam shut. We call for the renewal of a clean Dream Act, allowing permanent immigration status for the hundreds of thousands of young adults brought to this country as children.

We further call on our rabbis, congregants and members to continue the work they have engaged in thus far to provide sanctuary, oppose bigotry and resist the pernicious policies in place. We are proud of the efforts that so many leaders who identify with our movement have taken to date and share these with you as inspiration going forward:

  • The participation of Reconstructionist rabbis Yohanna Kinberg and Rachel Gartner in an interfaith clergy mission to the Texas border, representing Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Catholic communities.
  • Reconstructing Judaism and the RRA’s coordinated participation in sector-wide advocacy efforts led by fellow Jewish organizations: 
  • The publication of original prayers, rituals and poems by Reconstructionist rabbis and lay leaders on Ritualwell and others.
  • Participation in local and regional rallies, demonstrations, and ongoing protests to demonstrate collective power and readiness to mobilize.

We wish to acknowledge that Reconstructionist congregations and havurot have been engaged in deepening local coalitions to stand in solidarity with immigrant communities. In partnership with the New Sanctuary Movement, the following congregations have created physical spaces in their communal buildings to shelter immigrant families:

In these times, the strength of our networks, our determination to work toward the creation of a society that reflects our highest ethical values and the connection of our actions to a long lineage of unswerving commitment to the pursuit of justice in Jewish tradition and beyond impel us toward continued activism. May we work to build the world we wish our future generations to inherit.

Jewish Letter on Family Separation

News

Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association stand with other national Jewish organizations to protest the Trump administration’s immigration policies that separate children from their parents.

Our press release follows:

Alarmed by the U.S. government’s “zero tolerance” policy of separating children from their migrant parents when they cross the border, 26 national Jewish organizations sent a letter to the Administration expressing strong opposition to the cruel practice. The groups, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), the Reform Movement, and HIAS, are urging the Administration to immediately rescind the “zero tolerance” policy and uphold the values of family unity and justice on which our nation was built.

Reports indicate that over 1,000 children have already been separated from their parents since the policy was implemented. Mounting evidence suggests that many children have been threatened, treated poorly, and held in dangerous conditions. In response to such cruel policy, the signers joined together to voice our Jewish values of caring for the stranger in our midst, which requires that we immediately end family separation. ‘How we treat the stranger reflects on the moral values and ideals of this nation. As the letter states:

“Our own people’s history as ‘strangers’ reminds us of the many struggles faced by immigrants today and compels our commitment to an immigration system in this country that is compassionate and just. […] Separating families is a cruel punishment for children and families simply seeking a better life and exacerbates existing challenges in our immigration system. It adds to the backlog of deportation cases and legal challenges in federal courts, places thousands more immigrants in detention facilities and shelters, endangers the lives of more children, and instills additional fear in people seeking safety in our country.”

The letter was signed by the following 26 organizations:

  • American Conference of Cantors
  • American Jewish Committee (AJC)
  • American Jewish World Service
  • Anti-Defamation League
  • B’nai B’rith International
  • Bend the Arc Jewish Action
  • Central Conference of American Rabbis
  • Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.
  • HIAS
  • Jewish Council for Public Affairs
  • Jewish Labor Committee
  • Jewish Women International
  • Men of Reform Judaism
  • National Association of Jewish Legislators
  • National Council of Jewish Women
  • Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies
  • NFTY – The Reform Jewish Youth Movement
  • Rabbinical Assembly
  • Reconstructing Judaism 
  • Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
  • The Workmen’s Circle
  • T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
  • Union for Reform Judaism
  • United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
  • Uri L’Tzedek, The Orthodox Social Justice Movement
  • Women of Reform Judaism

Jewish Support for Dreamers: A Self-Evident Truth

News

Why did more than 100 Jewish leaders from around the country participate last month in act of civil disobedience in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building?

Why were 86 rabbis arrested, some handcuffed and carried off while still wearing their prayer shawls? And why do we, leaders of the Reconstructionist denomination of Judaism, spend so much time and social capital advocating on behalf of the roughly 800,000 Dreamers at risk of deportation. In case you didn’t know, very few of the Dreamers are Jews.

The answer is self-evident and derives from our tradition’s most sacred treasure: The Torah.

Torah values compelled our organizations, Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, to partner with Bend the Arc, a Jewish social justice organization, in a national day of action supporting the Dreamers. On February 7, we proudly co-sponsored the “Jews Stand with Dreamers” rally outside the Philadelphia offices of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey. Pennsylvania’s Republican junior senator has said that President Obama lacked the authority to create the DACA program and that President Trump was right to end it and throw the matter to Congress.

We don’t agree and, neither do the majority of the Jewish community or for that matter, most Americans. A CBS News poll released last month shows that 70 percent of Americans favor allowing Dreamers to remain in the United States. Even in an era of polarization, most Americans understand this issue in terms of fundamental fairness. These are some of the reasons why we delivered to Toomey’s office a letter signed by 13,000 American Jews demanding action and a path to citizenship for Dreamers. We hope that Toomey and many of his Senate and House colleagues can be swayed by the righteousness of the cause.

As Jews, as Americans and as human beings, we know from our sacred texts, from the values that we draw from them, and from our lived experience that we must stand for those who are on the margins of society. We cannot sit idly by while our neighbors and friends face deportation and homelessness.

The Torah, the sacred text of the Jewish people, tells us 36 times that we must welcome the stranger because we, who were strangers in the land of Egypt, know what it means to be the stranger.  The Dreamers were brought to this country as children; they grew up here speaking English and participating in our communities.  Most Dreamers have jobs or are in university and contribute mightily to our society.  They are not unknown to us or “others,” but are sojourners in our midst – exactly the kind of people the Torah injunction is telling us to think about.  It is a moral imperative to treat those who reside with us, who contribute and build alongside us, as equals in our society.

Furthermore, we Jews know from our lived experience that our safety is only as secure as the safety of the most vulnerable people in our society. We know that ultra-nationalist rhetoric and closed borders means persecution and suffering for vulnerable populations, including masses of innocent, striving people. The era of mass Jewish immigration to the United States ended with the passage of the immigration act of 1924, which effectively barred the gates to Eastern and Southern Europeans. Imagine how many victims of the Holocaust could have been saved had our nation remained open to those in need. Imagine the incalculable human potential denied a chance to benefit our society — or any society.

We know from our history that Jewish safety is only as strong as the civil society of the nations in which we dwell and where our relationships with other groups have been strong. The promise of America’s founding documents has created unprecedented opportunity for America’s Jews. As much as we have sought advancement and hopefulness for ourselves, we seek them for all immigrants. We stand with Dreamers because, in a time of growing intolerance and divisiveness, when the human and civil rights of all minorities are increasingly threatened, we need allies and we need to be allies.

We hope for a more open, sensible and secure immigration system that gives people from around the world the same chance at reinvention that our Jewish forbearers enjoyed. Right now, our immediate focus is on the Dreamers who were brought here as children, and who, due to the arbitrary actions of President Trump, face an imminent threat of deportation. Such a cruel act would not only rob these so many young people of their safety, security, and prosperity, it would irreparably destroy their American dream and our collective American future.  

As Reconstructionist Jews, we insist that the best of Judaism should inform America and the best of America should inform Judaism.  The highest ideals of this country resonate deeply with Jewish values, including the teaching that all people are created in God’s image, that all people are of the opportunity to live full, free, meaningful lives. Out of Jewish and American values, out of our Jewish and American experiences, we call upon our elected officials to act upon the best of American values and to pass a clean Dream Act.

We encourage people to consult the five books of Moses — sacred to all the traditions descended from Abraham — and read for yourself the Biblical imperative to welcome the immigrant. Please contact our member of Congress. And if you can, join us in person and make your voices heard. 

Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., is president of Reconstructing Judaism.

Rabbi Elyse Wechterman is president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association.

Pursuing Justice

National Jewish Letter on DREAM Act

Endorsement

 

RRC/JRC signed onto a letter urging members of Congress to support the bipartisan DREAM Act.

Statement on Decision to End Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program

News

 

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities are strongly opposed to President Trump’s recently announced decision to end the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals or DACA and put the lives of over 800,000 young people in America at risk.

“This is a morally unjust act that is both unnecessary and short-sighted,” said Rabbi Seth Goldstein, President of the RRA.  “The commandment to love the stranger is repeated 36 times in the Hebrew Bible.  Kicking out young people, brought here as children and raised as Americans, is an untenable rejection of the core of our nation’s values.”

Since 2012, the DACA program has enabled eligible young people who came to this country as children to voluntarily come forward and pass background checks in exchange for permission to live and work in America without fear of deportation. Ending this protection is inhumane and would separate families.  In addition, it is economically unfeasible. The Center for American Progress estimates that ending DACA will cost our national economy $460 billion over the next decade.

The Jewish community has a long history of active engagement in the struggles of new immigrants and in development of our nation’s immigration policy.  From our history we know what it feels like to be expelled and forced to wander. These Dreamers were raised in America and are part of our communities.  Most of them are in school or employed and they contribute to the wellbeing of our communities and our country.  We abhor the possibility of removing hard-working contributing members of our society from their homes, families and communities.

We call on Congress to protect DACA recipients by immediately passing a bi-partisan Dream Act of 2017 and on President Trump to sign it.  

Joint Letter Opposing H2431 ("SAFE Act")

Endorsement

 

RRC and Jewish Reconstructionist Communities were among nearly 200 local and national organizations to sign this joint letter asking House Judiciary Committee members to oppose H.R. 2431 as a draconian measure that would criminalize undocumented immigrants and undermine due process protections. 

Joint Letter Urging Support for Haitians at Risk of Deportation

Endorsement

 

RRC/JRC joined more than 400 faith leaders and organizations in this letter urging Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly to extend Haitian refugees’ Temporary Protected Status.

Joint Letter Calling for Syrian Refugee Resettlement

Endorsement

 

On April 27th, RRC/JRC co-signed a letter with 36 national organizations calling on President Trump to resettle more Syrian refugees after the horrific chemical attacks on Syrians earlier in the month.

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