Jackie Congedo — In Conversation
Welcoming the Stranger in our Midst
We, as Jews, have a responsibility to the stranger in our midst. The Torah records the message that we must welcome the stranger among us and that we shall love them as ourselves. This commandment is repeated 35 times, more than any other law in the Torah. The call to welcome the stranger is a cultural Jewish norm, not just a simple legal ruling. Each day, in every single prayer service, and on each holiday, we recall that we were once strangers and enslaved in the land of Egypt. Though none of us were personally present in those days, we each individually and collectively remember the ordeal. Leviticus 19:34 reminds us that “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love them as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Our shared past teaches us that we must create an inclusive and just future for all.
Since May, more than 2,340 children have been separated from their parents under new federal immigration procedures. The JCRC believes that separating young children from their parents is contrary to our values as Americans and as Jews. We know that many members of our community believe likewise and have asked how they can support the effort to end family separation. We are providing this information so that members of our community can become engaged in a meaningful and personal way with the effort to support immigrant children and end family separation.
Click here to see all the ways you can help.
The JCRC identified immigration as a priority issue a year ago, issuing a policy statement on immigration that recognizes the need for comprehensive immigration reform, equitable immigration enforcement, and a humane refugee policy. In furtherance of this policy position, JCRC has engaged in advocacy and community education about the DREAM Act, held a community-wide forum on immigration policy, and joined more than 350 other organizations, including those representing all four major Jewish denominations, in a statement condemning family separation.
Not long ago, we were immigrants to this country, drawn to the United States by its promise of tolerance, religious freedom, and economic opportunity. As our families entered this country, many were greeted by the words of the Jewish poet Emma Lazarus on the Statue of Liberty proclaiming, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” When we found our new homes, we experienced this new freedom and we, in turn, have a responsibility to provide those seeking that same freedom with the opportunities we received.
While an administration-issued executive order might cease the current process of separating families in favor of family incarceration, the fact remains that right now, in our country, thousands of children and parents are being kept from each other. Parents do not know where their children are. They need our help with basic necessities. And they need our help with legal assistance to navigate the system.
JCRC Board member and retired Cincinnati Rabbi, Margie Meyer, recently gave a keynote address to hundreds at the Center for Migration Studies of New York conference at Xavier University. She discussed the power of faith community mobilization and how it is our duty to uphold our values and support those seeking to create opportunity in a new land as we once did.
We were once strangers in the land of Egypt. We were once huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Our law tells us to welcome the strangers in our midst. Our history teaches us that we have a responsibility to those seeking freedom. Our hearts compel us to help those in need who cannot help themselves.
Please join the effort to end family separation and to support immigrant families in Cincinnati, thereby demonstrating our Jewish values of working tirelessly to support the most vulnerable in society.
Thanks for caring about our community and what we do.
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