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Jewish Organizational Letter on Refugee and Asylum Priorities During COVID-19

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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association were among 192 Jewish organizations to urge Congress to insure that COVID-19 response includes refugees and asylum seekers.

Letter on Asylum Seekers and "Remain in Mexico" Policy

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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Organization were among 153 signatories to a letter urging the Department of Homeland Security to end its “Migrant Protection Protocols” preventing asylum seekers from seeking refugee protection in the United States.

Please Join in the National Refugee Shabbat

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Dear friends—

We are deeply moved by the resilience and clarity of the members of Pittsburgh’s Dor Hadash for their commitment to participating in HIAS’s National Refugee Shabbat again this year. We urge every Reconstructionist community to stand with Dor Hadash and HIAS this coming March by participating in this powerful program. In this way, we act on our values and gain strength from each other to create the world in which we want to live.

With blessings and appreciation,

Rabbi Deborah Waxman, President
Seth Rosen, Board Chair

 


Dear Hevre,

At Congregation Dor Hadash in Pittsburgh, we are participating again this year in the National Refugee Shabbat, organized by HIAS. The dates are March 20-21, 2020. We were, of course, appalled that the perpetrator of the Oct. 27, 2018 massacre ranted about our support of HIAS and participation in the National Refugee Shabbat. And we suffered grievously from the attack. Nevertheless, participating is important for all of us.

We encourage all congregations to join HIAS’s Welcome Campaign and to hold their own National Refugee Shabbat services. All the reasons for participating last time still hold, and there are even more reasons to do so this year, including support for Jewish values, support for HIAS and standing up for our right as Jews to worship in peace.

Chapter 19 of Leviticus states, “The stranger who sojourns with you shall be as a native from among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Anyone who has sat through a Passover seder understands our deep connection to those escaping from slavery, war or abuse because of race, religion, nationality or political opinion, which are the defining characteristics of refugees. Many American Jews came themselves as refugees or descended from people who would meet today’s definition of a refugee. Two years ago, our Social Action Committee at Dor Hadash decided to focus on helping refugees and immigrants through direct assistance via our local Jewish Family and Community Services.

But we also saw our mission as advocating for more humane policies towards refugees and asylum seekers, so we joined with HIAS. That need has only increased in the past year as the administration in Washington, D.C., has continued to reduce sharply the number of refugees admitted, has carried out an inhumane policy of family separation and has refused to let asylum-seekers enter the country while making them wait months for hearings. You may feel that your congregation is not the place to talk about “politics.” We would argue that these are questions of social policy, not of partisan politics. Christie Balka’s essay (on the Reconstructing Judaism website) “Political Activism as a Form of Prayer” says “activism requires us to make a profound statement of faith. It reflects both our highest ideals and our belief that transformation is, in fact, possible. By acting on this belief, we make it more so.”

Participating in the National Refugee Shabbat is also a way of connecting to HIAS through its Welcome Campaign, which provides materials and ideas about how to organize a service around the issue of refugees. HIAS (formerly the Hebrew International Aid Society) has a long history of aiding Jews leaving Russia and then the Soviet Union, and now works globally to support refugees of all faiths, based upon Jewish values. Their work encompasses advocacy, including protecting the rights of refugees in the United States and around the world, and direct service to refugees through 16 offices worldwide. Many congregations have their own way of supporting tikkun olam, so supporters can find ways to work with them that fit their own and their congregations’ values and priorities.

Finally, we need to stand up to the haters and assert our right to worship in peace and safety. In doing so, we uphold core Jewish and American values and rights. We cannot protect ourselves from violence by digging a hole and hiding in it. It is in that spirit that, after the attack, we recommitted ourselves to our work supporting refugees and our membership as part of HIAS’s Welcome Campaign. It is why we see participating in the National Refugee Shabbat as so important now. In sum, we need to stand together to help refugees, to support HIAS and to support our right to worship.

National Refugee Shabbat resources: www.hias.org/national-refugee-shabbat

HIAS’s Welcome Campaign resources: www.hias.org/get-involved/hias-welcome-campaign

Eve Wider
Chair, Social Action Committee
Dor Hadash, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Carolyn Ban
Former Chair, Social Action Committee
Dor Hadash, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Interfaith Amicus Brief Opposing Indefinite Detention of Immigrant Families

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We join more than 40 faith and interfaith organizations to oppose new Trump administration regulations that would authorize indefinite detention of families with children during the course of their immigration proceedings.

Endorsement of HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act

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Reconstructing Judaism endorses the Health Equity and Access under the Law (HEAL) for Immigrant Women and Families Act of 2019

Jewish Rohingya Justice Network Letter to Under Secretary Mandelker

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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association have joined with 18 organizations, representing the Jewish Rohingya Justice Network, in calling on Under Secretary of the Treasury Sigal Mandelker to pursue justice and accountability for the Rohingya people and all ethnic minorities in Burma. Rori Kramer, Director of Government Affairs for American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the leading global Jewish human rights organization, issued the following statement on the Network’s behalf:

“On August 25, the world will mark two years since the Burmese military escalated a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya people. Because of this state-sanctioned violence, more than 700,000 Rohingya people have fled their homes and live in impoverished conditions in refugee camps in Bangladesh. The military is also the key perpetrator of human rights violations against other ethnic and religious minority groups in Burma (also known as Myanmar).

“The Jewish community has come together to urge Under Secretary Mandelker, as the lead for international sanctions, to designate the most senior Burmese military officials, who were the key architects of the gross violations of human rights against the Rohingya people. It is also crucial to impose financial sanctions on military-owned enterprises since the income generated from these businesses enables the military to continue its brutal acts of gross human rights violations in Burma.

“As Jews, we cannot stay silent in face of genocide, and we are grateful that Under Secretary Mandelker shares our commitment to pursuing justice. We know the cost of silence and we will continue to advocate on behalf of the Rohingya and ethnic minorities in Burma until the military ceases its operations of violence and persecution.”

The full text of the letter delivered to the U.S. Treasury Under Secretary and signatory list are available above as a PDF.

Statement on Violence Against Jewish Protesters at ICE Detention Center

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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association condemn the violence committed against peaceful protestors at the entrance to an ICE detention center in Rhode Island.  

We wish to express our full support for the non-violent tactics and moral message of the #NeverAgainIsNow Rhode Island Tisha B’Av action. We are proud of our RRA rabbi participants, Rabbi Alex Weissman and Rabbi Adam Lavitt, as well as all the organizers and protestors for their courage to resist the detention and mistreatment of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. Now is the time to overcome the inertia of silence in the face of these ongoing human rights abuses.  

We denounce the actions of the employees of the for-profit Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility, which contracts with ICE, both for driving a truck into the protesters and for aggressively dispersing them with pepper spray.  We welcome the Attorney General and state police’s investigation into this violence.  We pray for a refu’ah shlaymah — full and complete healing — for the three people hospitalized for severe pepper spray exposure and the two hospitalized after being hit by the truck.  

For many of us, the images and video from last night’s protest echo our lingering fear and hurt following the devastating car attack two years ago in Charlottesville, Va. that killed Heather Heyer and injured many others. In the face of such intimidating violence, we must recommit ourselves to the constitutional protections of free speech and free assembly. These are the cornerstones of our democracy and fundamental rights our society cannot afford to lose.  

As fear increases, so can the capacity for closing our hearts to the suffering of others. We offer you these reflections from Rabbi Alex Weissman (RRC ‘17) as an example of the moral leadership we so desperately need in these times: 

To work in a system that dehumanizes people requires you to close your heart. It was clear these men’s hearts were closed. Their hearts were hardened. For reasons I do not know, they chose violence.

Our country is in a moment of heart hardening. I too felt my heart harden, wanting revenge, wanting to do violence to those that harmed my people. My friends. My dear ones.
This is not the way forward, as tempting as it is.

As we sang again and again tonight, “olam chesed yibaneh” (psalm 89). The world is built on love. We must build this world from love.

Those with hardened hearts will fall.
Justice will come.
Liberation is coming.
It is what God wants.
It is what our ancestors want.
It is what we want.
It.
Will.
Be.
 

Joint Letter on Refugee Policy

Endorsement

 

Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association have joined with 166 Jewish organizations and institutions in urging the United States to return to historic numbers for refugee resettlement. “The United States has historically distinguished itself as a beacon of hope and as a safe haven for those who most need it… Resettling zero refugees in the U.S. in FY2020 would effectively gut the refugee resettlement program, violate our values as Jews and Americans, and abdicate the American promise of freedom and opportunity.”

Letter opposing nomination of Ronald Mortensen

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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.

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