We Must “Welcome the Stranger” Through Fair Immigration and Asylum Policies

Secular Humanistic Jews call for social justice

My mother came to America as a refugee. She was born in a displaced persons camp in Berlin after her parents survived the Holocaust.

My wife is an immigrant, drawn to the U.S. for the greater career opportunities provided to women here compared to in her homeland of Japan.

Unless you are fully Native American, you too have an immigrant story, whether your forbearers came for reasons of refuge, greater opportunities, or perhaps even against their will in chains.

As Humanistic Jews, we know from the collected wisdom of Judaism and the philosophy of Humanism that now that we’ve made it, it is morally wrong to close the doors behind us.

Judaism implores us to “Welcome the stranger because we were strangers in Egypt.” That timeless wisdom, repeated in the Torah more often than any other commandment, requires us to address and overcome our fears and xenophobia. No easy task, but the right path.

That’s why I’m proud to be part of a U.S. Jewish community that is opposed to the recent unfair immigration ban. Last week, the board of the Society for Humanistic Judaism passed a resolution that reads, in part:

As Humanistic Jews, we note that the fate of the Jewish people has been inextricably bound to issues of immigration and asylum for millennia; As Humanistic Jews, we have a moral obligation to assist refugees fleeing armed conflict, repression or religious and ethnic persecution; As Humanistic Jews, we affirm the values of human dignity, compassion, and equality….
Therefore, be it resolved that: The Society for Humanistic Judaism urges the Trump Administration to rescind the Executive Order on immigration. To that end, the Society for Humanistic Judaism urges Humanistic Jews to speak out and protest against this action that violates basic tenets of humanity and reason and applauds education on why the Executive Order on immigration goes against our fundamental values as a democratic nation. The Society for Humanistic Judaism also supports efforts to provide sanctuary to refugees from any nation in need of such accommodations.
Rabbi Peter Schweitzer of the City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism featured in the NY Jewish Week.

Most of our local congregations have organized or participated in marches and demonstrations against this and other injustices. For example, Rabbi Peter Schweitzer of the City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism was featured prominently in a New York Jewish Week article that quoted him in its title, “Immigration Crisis ‘Resonates With Our History.’

In the article Rabbi Schweitzer explains, “My father was a refugee who came from Germany as a teenager in 1937. [If he had not left] I wouldn’t be here. We carried a sign last week at the Women’s March that said, ‘We were strangers in Egypt.’ This is our issue. All these issues are ours.”

Oryanu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism demonstrated the highest Jewish value — saving lives — by raising over $50,000 to sponsor a Syrian refugee family who arrived safely in Toronto late last year.

As the national coordinating body for our movement, the Society for Humanistic Judaism supports our members who want to take action on core values and preserve that vision of America as a land of opportunity for all people. One of our volunteer leaders designed four beautiful signs that can be used at marches and protests. You can download the PDF here and bring it to a local copy shop to print out one or more of the signs.

Download the PDF here.

I hope you will join our efforts as we continue to ramp up our social justice activities. One easy way to stay informed is to sign up for our occasional emails if you don’t already subscribe. You can also support us by becoming a member of SHJ or making a donation.

We look forward to linking arms with you and other likeminded citizens to put our ethical values into action, together.