Ian Silverman, Rabbi

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In fairness, the Trump administration is endeavoring to fulfill the enforcement end of immigration laws already on the books, and they have been saddled with the problem of 12 million illegal immigrants in this country. What is important, however, from my Jewish point of view, is that any racheting up of enforcement should be moderated through the lens of compassion to the stranger, a basic tenet of our religion. In the Torah, we read thirty-six times, "Love the stranger." Be kind to them, ki gerim heyeetem– for once we knew what it was to be spurned and marginal strangers in a land not our own. Judaism's radical claim is to turn a human reflex on its head. An abused person often becomes an abuser. God saw to it that our abuse would lead to sensitivity.

Yet it would be disingenuous if I left it only at this. The Israelites were also commanded to obliterate Amalek and destroy the seven nations that were occupying the land God promised Israel. These nations were practitioners of murderous rites and demanded compulsive adherence to their pagan religious practices for the Christian population trying to live an otherwise productive and law-abiding life. In addition, in the late Ancient time and certainly by the early Medieval time, rabbinic law had forbidden this way of thinking about any present day people. 

A look at laws in Mishpatim of the parasha resonate, to some degree, with the issue currently evolving with this new executive thrust. Hebrew slaves who were serving a master to work off a debt were to be set free after six years. Their status was to be upgraded after the serving of a certain number of years, and they were to be provided with "perks" upon that upgrade–sufficient provisions, tools, etc.–to be able to get started again on their own. If he so chose, the Hebrew slave could seek harbor in the master's household and the master would be required to give him shelter and provisions in exchange for his servitude until the time of Jubilee, for as many as 49 years.

There is another mitzvah that applies to an extent, regarding the occasion upon which a poor person is required to give collateral. If that collateral ends up being a garment, the lender must make certain he or she has returned it by nightfall, for this could be his or her only covering on a cold night. God apparently cares that all human beings don't suffer from the cold or find themselves exposed to the elements. God, says our midrash, shares the distress of human beings who are suffering. "Created in His image" means more to God than just that we resemble some of His qualities; it means He's a parent to every human being. A mother and/or a father looks at a child as almost a phantom limb. When the child suffers, so does God, the parent. 

A third mitzvah of the Torah tells us that if we afflict the orphan or widow, in due time God will become furious and our wives and children will end up beings widows and orphans. The Talmud takes this further and teaches that if we even witness such affliction and don't act to stop it, the same penalty applies. This is remarkable, the commentators opine. Such is the strictness God holds with widows and orphans. Since they are so vulnerable, they must be given extra iron-clad protections.

 

A fourth mitzvah that applies, to an extent, is one that tells us that if one sees the animal of an enemy suffering under an undo burden, we must stop what we are doing and help relieve the burden the animal is experiencing. Say our sages, if an enemy sees that compassion, they will reconsider being an enemy in the first place. All the more so if the enemy himself is under a burden.

Returning to modern times, some say these immigration policies are the laws of the land, and the Trump administration is just being the adult in the room. They would state that prior administrations, which have not had the courage to enforce the laws, have made the present circumstances far worse, and they would be right. But then the question becomes, what should the courts and Congress do to alleviate the human tragedy that this stricter enforcement will entail? Others may say that these folks crowd out legal immigrants' needs by overwhelming the welfare agencies, and they too would have some legal validity to their point. I would answer that this all brings up the question: how callous can we be to human tragedy in tearing away a person from the livelihood they have cobbled together and the families they have formed?

our role in all of this has been more participatory than we realize. We have worked to prepare HIHI meals for immigrants who are homeless. These men are largely illegal, but no less worthy of our Jewish compassion. Many of us will attest that it is holy work to feed the hungry and help procure them shelter in the winter, and that this population has shown nothing but gratitude to us for our commitment. We may not speak one another's language but we know appreciation and affection when we see it. Should we reconsider what we do in light of this crackdown? I would counsel just the opposite. Currently, the Administration is saying that illegals here two years and less and criminal elements are the only ones that should be worried. It is not clear, however, if it matters how long they are here to be at risk for deportation. Illegals found in the process of searching for criminal illegals or recent illegals are also at risk once they are discovered. Police forces are being deputized to do ICE work, with little training. Further, the DAKA "dreamer population," who came to the US as small children, are safe for now, as President Trump has shown some sympathy. But that does not apply to the parents of such "dreamers." Remember the mitzvah of what happens when people become widows and orphans. Deported parents are still parents who are living. A deported spouse is still living. But for all intents and purposes, they may as well not be. Will a "dreamer" travel to Mexico to visit with their now Mexican family? Were I one of them, I wouldn't go near the border. And good luck for such parents to receive travel visas to the US.

It's hard to know how this will all play out. But it seems to me that efforts to secure the border with a strong seal should proceed, with commensurate efforts to work with the present illegal immigrant community to find a means for permanent residency. These two policies should exist side-by-side once the border is tighter. While the application of our ancient mitzvoth don't exactly match, this, to me, is in their spirit. May we and our leaders be guided by their compassionate dimension, and to this we say, amen.

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Israel Items of Interest

Film recommendation: Mekonen, the story of an Ethiopian Jew who makes peace with an emotional past and embraces his future in Israel, becoming a decorated officer in the IDF while remaining true to his African roots and culture.

Did you know that the first victim of 9-11 was an Israeli Special Forces Veteran who rushed the cockpit of American Airlines Flight 11 to stop the hijackers, but was murdered in his attempt to stop these al-Queda terrorists. Watch a quick video, HERE. 

Read about a small guitar workshop in Jaffa, creating the finest instruments, HERE.

A PhD student at Hebrew University has won an award for developing a test to detect Parkinson's Disease. Read about it HERE.

Three years after publishing an anti-Israel letter in the medical journal, The Lancet, the editor admits he has deep regrets and has dedicated the latest issue to highlighting health care in Israel. Read about it HERE.

Read an article by Chris Coons and Marco Rubio from the Wall Street Journal, "Every Senator Agrees the UN Must Change," HERE.

Israel's medical clowns- they cheer up sick kids, reduce anxiety, decrease pain, and alleviate depression. They are Jews, Christian Arabs, and others. Watch a YouTube video about them HERE.

Learn about the connection of Jews with Israel, the decades-long quest of Israel for peace with it's neighbors, the failure of Palestinian leadership to turn conflict into coexistence, and the contrast between the fate of Palestinian and Jewish refugees from the Arab-Israel conflict, HERE. 

Women of the IDF video

 

Rabbi Silverman's Suggested Sites to See

An ad campaign proposed by Palestinians for London's underground subway stations depicting the peaceful Arab population before and bereavement after the establishment of Israel in 1948 has been rejected by the city of London. Read about it HERE.

According to experts, Israel and Saudi Arabia are praising Trump's new policy towards Iran, a sign that their shared concern is "nudging" Israel and much of the Arab world closer together. Read about it HERE.

November 2nd commemorates the history of the Balfour Declaration, when Lord Balfour announced the support for the establishment of a "national home for the Jewish people in what was then the Ottoman region of Palestine. Read the history HERE.

According to an ex-AP reporter, Journalists covering Israel have created a reality that doesn't match what's really happening. Read the explanation that came out of the Christian Media Summit HERE.

Read excerpts from the US Congressional Record of 1922, demonstrating the powerful sense of members of Congress for reestablising a Jewish national home in Palestine, HERE.

Read the Las Vegas shooting statement from the Rabbinical Assembly, HERE.

The American Jewish Historical Society, founded to study and preserve Jewish history, is now made up of anti-Israel activists due to its partnership with the JVP, Jewish Voice for Peace, and anti-Israel BDS hate group that defends anti-Semitism. Read about it HERE.
UCLA Professor David Myers, appointed CEO of the center this past summer says he loves Israel and denies that he is for the BDS movement. Read his defense HERE.

 

End the practice by the Palestinian Authority to provide cash to terrorists for injuring and killing Israelis and foreigners by supporting the Taylor Force Act, named after a US serviceman murdered in Tel Aviv, whose assasin's family benefits from PA terror payments. Urge Congress to end these payments HERE.

Watch a video showcasing the StandWithUs Center in Jerusalem HERE.

Although Canadian hate speech laws are more restrictive than those of the US, the courts in Canada did not cite an imam for his prayers to "destroy the accursed Jews." This comes despite Jewish communal support of Muslims after six worshippers were killed in a mosque. Read about it HERE.

Chelsea soccer star Alvaro Morata is tellling fans to stop chanting a song in his honor that contains anti-Semitic language- a principled stand that sets the right tone for all sport, HERE. 

Jews exiled from Iraq in the 1950s were forced to leave behind treasured items that were recovered by US troops in 2003 in a flooded Iraqi basement. The State Department is planning to return them to Iraq, but Senator Chuck Schumer is among a group of US lawmakers that have joined Jewish groups in lobbying to keep the archive in a location accessible to Iraqi Jews and their descendants- none of whom now live in Iraq. Read about it HERE.

A disturbing assessment of the present state of feminism by one of its pioneers, Phyllis Chesler, HERE.

The Rabbinical Assembly has issued a statement on the Las Vegas incident– HERE , as well as a statement on sensible gun control – HERE

Israel's Yad Vashem was redesigned and reconstructed in 1993, but the collusion between the the Germans and Arabs in their hatred of the Jews has been significantly downplayed from its emphasis in the former museum. Read about it HERE.

Jewish college kids confront aggressive and professional anti-Semitic efforts to transform campuses into Israel-hostile environments. Most Jewish students manage to remain unaffected by moving to the "sidelines" of the debate and "proceeding with life as students normally would." But this is a win for the anti-Israel campaign. Read why HERE.

Monday, September 25th, was "Hate Israel Day" for the UN Human Rights Council, a regular agenda item that targets the Jewish state. Surprisingly, an ex-Hamas Palestinian took the floor and challenged the Palestinian Authority, citing Israel as a false and convenient scapegoat for the suffering of the Palestinian people and selfish political interests of the PA. Read Mosab Hassan Yousef's words HERE. 

Learn how you can help, where you can drop off needed supplies, or make a donation toward the Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico, click HERE.

Watch an interview of Israel's former Ambassador to the UN, Ron Posor with Alan Dershowitz discussing certain UN agencies. The interview by Israeli television is laced with optimism at the appointment of former PM of Portugal Gutierrez as Secretary General, HERE.

Before three Israeli's could be buried following a Palestinian terrorist attack on September 26, Abbas' Fatah movement celebrated the killings on Facebook, calling the killer a martyr and promising to reward the family in shekels. Read about it HERE.
If you want the world to take real action to stop Palestinian terror join your voice to the 46,000 people who have signed The Israel Project petition HERE.

Support the Isreael Anti-Boycott Act, which protects US companies targeted by international boycotts against Israel and punishes those who comply with them. Read all about it HERE.

The U.S. State Department annual report applauds the Palestinian Authority for curbing violence, recognizing Israel, and pursuing an independent Palestinian state through peaceful means. Read about this fantasy HERE.

According to a Palestinian psychologist, women hijacking planes and murdering Israeli civilians are "wonderful acts of heroism." Unfortunately, these are the societal values of the Palestinian adversary. Learn about it HERE.

A pro-Palestinian Jewish group is urging young Jews to shun Birthright because, while Birthright offers free trips to Israel, Palestinian refugees are barred from returning to their homes. Read about it HERE.

Norway received a refund for a women's center they had funded, after learning that the woman it had been named for had led a terrorist attack in 1978. Does this signal a new beginning in Europe's attitude toward the Palestinian Authority? Find out HERE.

A charity organization called "Islamic Relief" received funding and notariety across the globe, but they have been tied to extreme violent anti-Semitism. Read about it HERE.

Find out what you can send to Houston to aid area Conservative shuls HERE.

Jewish critics accuse the Holocaust Museum of bystanderism for excusing the Obama administration in its response to war crimes committed by Bashar al-Assad in Syria and not taking action to prevent them. Read about it HERE.

The biggest threat to the continued existence of Israel comes from the propaganda campaign that rejects Israel's right to exist. Read the essay by Professor Gerald M. Steinberg of Bar Ilan University, HERE.

Israel's response to Hurricane Harvey is, again, "a light unto nations." Make a donation to the disaster relief through IsraAID HERE

In the run for Illinois governor, Jewish State Senator Daniel Biss dropped his running mate, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, who was a supporter of the BDS movement. Read about it HERE.

Esther Meshoe, daugther of South African Parliamentarian Dr. Kenneth Meshoe, defends Israel a video, HERE.

Dealing with anti-Semitism is a larger problem that Charlottesville. Read David Harris's blog HERE.

While the Israeli government is embracing and financially supporting ultra-Orthodox policies, it is paying little attention to Masorti non-Orthodox Jewry. Masorti needs donations to deal with this funding disparity. Please consider a donation HERE.

Read a worthwhile essagy Palestinian Settler-Colonialism, by Dr. Alex Joffe, HERE

Donate to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund through the UJA Federation NY HERE.

Read the blog of Yehuda Kurtzer: Talking Nazis Personally (and Collectively), a well thought-out essay by a contemporary Jewish thinker that looks at Charlottesville from many angles of Jewish memory. This piece pleads that we work together rather than at cross purposes in our response, HERE.

Read Watching Charlottesville from Jerusalem, an excellent reflection by Daniel Gordis HERE.

Watch an animated video about how anti-Semitism has mutated over time, HERE.

Read The Truth Behind Bar Mitzvah Tears, by Wendy Jaffe. A reflection that says it all perfectly, HERE.

Learn the proper protocol to handle Palestinian activists on campuses as exemplified by Georgetown University HERE.

A video about all the wonderful aid Israel provides worldwide, that will bring a tear to your eyes HERE.

 

 

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