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

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

A group of 18 NFL Hall-of-Famers joined New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on a trip to Israel that transformed their opinions of Kraft and of Israel, HERE.

Read a terrific article by foreign journalist Hunter Stuart, who, when exposed to the realities of reporting in Israel, found the his and his fellow journalists' pro-Palestinian views were very wrong, HERE.

Israel is the world's oldest victim of "false news," HERE.

Cold Spring Harbor's Judy Davis writes about the advantages of having Israel as an American partner in The Times of Israel, HERE.

Watch a video questioning the double standard when it comes to terrorism in Israel HERE.

Read an important article that rebuts the contention that the Holocaust is the reason the State of Israel exists, HERE.

As a Columbia University alumnus, Rabbi Silverman has written a letter to its president, Lee Bollinger, in protest of the "Nakba Project," an initiative of Columbia's Center for Palestine Studies and Adalah, and anti-Israel NGO. The project promotes extreme anti-Israel rhetoric and provides a platform for BDS-ers. Read about it HERE. 

Your tax dollars paid for an event in Congress, sponsored by Congressman Mark Pocan, with speakers that denied Israel's right to exit and called Israel's founding in 1948 a “catastrophe." Please sign your name to a petition that demands our leaders condemn this hate speech and to ensure that a congressional event like this will not happen again, HERE.

An Israeli rabbi settler who praised attacks on Arabs has been indicted for incitement. While it is troubling that rabbis have come to this, credit should be given to the the Israeli judicial system and mainstream Jewish scholars for disowning such thinking and indicting this rabbi. It would be significant if such legal mechanisms were applied to Palestinian society for similar incitement. Read about it HERE.

It's time for Jewish leadership, the Jewish Federation, Jewish Family Services, Hillels, and college students' families to stand up to campus bullying and intimidation directed against Jewish students. Read one man's opinion about where inaction leads, HERE.

Are charity dollars being well directed? The Middle East forum is trying to persuade foundations to stop funding to Islamist institutions in the West that provide platforms for speakers and to organizatins that defend Shariah-sanctioned rape and sex slavery. Read about it HERE.  

50 years ago, at the time of the Six-Day War, another campaign to drive the Jews out of Libya was waging. Read about the Libyan Jews in a blog from The Times of Israel by David Harris HERE.

Watch two short, 5-min videos on the claimes of Palestinians and the error of some "progressive" polemics against the State of Israel. Be sure to watch the second film directly following the first, on the false "indigenous" narrative of Palestinian leaders. 
Israel-hating Latino student finds something unbelievable, HERE.
The 2016 African Debate Champion shares his thoughts on Israel, HERE.

A surprising number of well-known retailers are offering anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian clothing and other items.This is an outrage that requires a strong reaction of displeasure directed right to their Customer service departments. Sears offers "Free Palestine" T-shirts, and Walmart and even Better Homes and Gardens offer "Free Palestine" phone cases (see phone cases HERE). Amazon offers 3 pages of Free Palestine T-shirts, including one for your baby.
Email Sears Customer Service

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Contact Walmart Customer Service HERE; Better Homes and Gardens Customer Service HERE.
You can call Amazon's general help line and ask to speak with management at 1-866-486-2360.

Spreadshirt, the manufacturer of the shirts, says they will continue to make them because "it does not break the law and does not incite violence." You can contact them and ask that they reconsider: https://www.spreadshirt.com/userarea/contact-C1336,  phone number: 1-800-381-0815

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

Read a blog by David Harris from The Times of Israel, on Israel at 69 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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