Dear Temple Emanu-El Family,
For days now numerous congregants have been expressing their deep concern over the current US policy of separating children from their parents at our borders. I myself have written about this grave situation on Facebook and I spoke about it at our Friday Night service. A copy of my sermon will be available soon on our website for those who would like to see what I said. I know that the topic of immigration and immigration policy is complicated and that, as a synagogue family, we have a wide-range of views on what our immigration policy should be and can be. That said, my response to this issue is not political and it is not based on politics or political party. At this moment, our country is facing a profound moral crisis and it is to this crisis that I am responding. As Jews, we know too well what it means to be refugees and what it means to bear the scars of forced separation from our children.
As of today, more than 2,300 children have been forcibly separated from their parents while crossing the US border. Some of these border crossings have happened illegally. Other separations have happened at legal points of entry by people seeking asylum. These 2,300 children are being housed in improvised tent cities, in a converted Walmart, and in numerous other detention facilities including facilities specially designed for holding infants and toddlers separated from their parents. There is no moral option for ignoring this inhumane treatment or the emotional damage being done as children are taken away from parents and placed in camps and detention facilities near and far.
At the end of last week, 26 national Jewish organizations signed an open letter to Attorney General Sessions and to Secretary Nielson condemning this policy and seeking its immediate end. After the letter was released, a 27th organization joined in, the Orthodox Union. This letter is rare in that it contains the signature and support of ALL FOUR major Jewish denominations, the Union for Reform Judaism (of which we are a member), United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Reconstructing Judaism, and the Orthodox Union. It is beyond rare for all four major denominational umbrella organizations to be in accord on any given topic. The unity here represents the overwhelming national Jewish voice that this policy goes against our values and principles as Jews, and as Americans.
As of yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order authorizing that families should be kept together “to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations…” As of this morning, there is no expression of intention to reunite the children who have already been separated from their parents. We will work in the days and weeks ahead to partner with other community organizations that are seeking to continue to oppose and end the family separation policy including Jewish Family Service of San Diego, the ADL, and HIAS. Our work will focus on continuing to monitor the situation and to assist and insist on the reunification of families. We will continue to put pressure on the government until all children have been reunited with their parents.
Below are links to events happening this weekend as well as links with good articles addressing the situation as it is currently. I will not be at these events this weekend because, although I support their calls and perspectives, I will be fulfilling my role and responsibility to our community events including Shabbat services, an aufruf for a wedding couple, a Bar Mitzvah and a wedding. Members from our congregation, with my blessing, will be at these rallies and gatherings bearing our synagogue logo as a demonstration of our support for family reunification. As a congregation we are making no comment on immigration law or policy itself except to express our deep desires that our policies going forward will be a reflection of a just and compassionate legal system which maintains our national security, safety at our borders, and compassion and decency for those seeking asylum here and seeking to find their future in our country.
I am thankful that the President signed the Executive Order to reverse this destructive policy decision that never should have been permitted. I know many of us are looking forward to seeing this terrible situation resolved immediately.
May these children be restored to the arms of their parents speedily and may our actions reflect our covenant with God and God’s demands that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Rabbi Devorah Marcus