In Light of the Times: The World Union for Progressive Judaism Responds to Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration

The weekend of January 27-28 was tumultuous to say the least. With headlines, tweets and videos rapidly firing updates from airports across the United States, the news of Trump’s Executive Order, effectively banning the entrance of Muslim persons from seven Muslim-majority countries into the U.S., sent shockwaves across the world.

“There is no doubt we are living in contentious times,” lamented Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander, President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). “Protests in cities and airports across the world, many led by Reform Rabbis and congregants, including many youth, along with the Religious Action Center (RAC) in Washington, gave hope as they stood up for justice. We rededicate our movement and its resources – our congregations, our rabbis, professionals and members– to live our commitment to be an Or LaGoyim (“light unto the nations”) by demonstrating to the world how religiously committed and humane human beings should behave toward each other.”

Protesters holding placards against Trump’s recent anti-refugee
and anti-migrant Executive Orders near the Israeli
Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem
(Photo by: JINIPIX)
In an effort to capture the global impact of the events unfolding in North America, the World Union asked Reform, Liberal and Progressive Rabbis, along with congregational leaders and regional presidents around the world, to send their responses, thoughts and reports of actions being taken by their congregations (see article below for more on this). While this is by no means a complete picture of all the Reform, Progressive and Liberal Rabbis’ and congregations’ writings and protests that take a stand for justice around the world, the list below serves as a starting point for conversations about ideas and reflections that show the importance of making our shared, global voice heard. 

From Australia:
“The UPJ [Union for Progressive Judaism], representing the Progressive Movement across Australia, New Zealand and Asia, is adamantly opposed to bans being placed on any person because of ethnicity, nationality or religion. The U.S. has the right to vet immigrants and visitors, as all nations do. However, the leading democratic nation in the world, and an exemplar of freedom to others, should base bans on entry on specific security concerns about individuals and not apply blanket bans. The Jewish people have fresh memories of suffering from blanket bans being imposed and entry to refugees being denied on the basis of religion, race or country of origin.” 

-- Roger Mendelson, President of the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ); and Rabbi Fred Morgan, Movement Rabbi (also reprinted in the Australian Jewish News)

From France:
"'For you have been strangers in the land of Egypt'. As Jews, we feel particularly committed to welcoming refugees. We are well aware that fears and difficulties lead people to reject ‘the other’, but more than ever we need to be at the forefront of a movement that fulfills the vision of Torah: ensuring social justice and rejecting the hatred of foreigners.”

-- St?phane Beder, President of Assembl?e du Juda?sme Lib?ral de France; Vice Chairman, European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ); Executive Board Member, World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ)

From Germany:
“The very recent images of bodies washed up on the beaches of popular European holiday destinations and of refugees queuing at central European borders in unspeakable conditions, have become indelibly engraved in my memory. They are bearable only because of the humane, generous and responsible reactions of governments, private organizations and individuals who reached out to help these people survive and find some hope and perspective for the future. 

Whoever learnt any lesson for the 21st century from the German catastrophe of the 20th must be on their side. It is a tragedy for the free world that the new American President is not among them. I feel that as Jewish organizations committed to Jewish values, we must do everything in our power to counteract the decision to close America’s doors or any other doors – for our nations and our hearts.” 

–- Sonja Guentner, Chairman, Union progressiver Juden (UpJ) in Deutschland K.d.?.R.; Vice Chairman, European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ); Executive Board Member, World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ); and Representative at the United Nations, Geneva

From Israel:
“We know you, our friends across the ocean. You did not hesitate in the past to take out the Torah Scroll into the city streets and to march with it alongside Dr. Martin Luther King. You did not hesitate to walk with us and the Torah scrolls a few months ago at the Kotel. You will not hesitate to take it out this time as well, if doing so becomes necessary.
Now it is our turn to say to you: “Be strong and of good courage; be not affrighted, neither be thou dismayed” (Joshua 1; 9)
Together we stand stronger in promoting justice, equality, inclusion and tolerance.” 

-- Rabbi Gilad Kariv, President and CEO, Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ); Reuven Marko, Chairperson, Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism; Anat Hoffman, Executive Director, Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC); Rabbi Na’amah Kelman, Dean, Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), Jerusalem campus; Rabbi Prof. Yehoyada Amir, Chair, MARAM-The Israel Council of Reform Rabbis, excerpt from this statement

From North America:
“The Reform Movement denounces in the strongest terms the horrifying Executive Order on immigration and refugees issued late Friday evening by President Trump… As Jews, we know the impact that xenophobia and religious profiling have on all people whose lives are endangered by exclusionary laws…  In the days, weeks and years that follow, we will work with our clergy, lay leaders, institutions and congregations to provide assistance and support to immigrants, refugees, asylum-seekers and others yearning for the refuge and opportunity for a better life that we know the United States, at its best, can provide.”

-- The Religious Action Center (RAC) along with leaders of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), excerpt from this statement 

“President Trump’s Executive Order limiting entry to the U.S. of non-citizens from seven countries, barring Syrian refugees indefinitely, and suspending entry of all refugees for 120 days, has sown bitter confusion and upended innocent lives. It is in stark and disheartening contrast to the values of inclusion that we at HUC-JIR embrace and to the normal practices of our nation... May we do all we can in the days ahead to protect the lives of those at serious risk, and continue to build a community in America that is worthy of our democratic roots and our Jewish values.” 

-- Rabbi Aaron Panken, President, HUC-JIR, excerpt from this statement
From the United Kingdom:
More than 30 progressive British rabbis signed a joint letter to U.S. President Donald Trump, following his Executive Order effectively banning Muslims coming from seven Islamic countries from entering the United States, stating: “We stand alongside our Muslim cousins as they face the consequences – both direct and indirect – of President Trump’s executive order. By effectively banning many Muslims from entering the United States, Donald Trump is inciting and legalizing hatred.”

-- Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform JudaismRabbi Alexandra Wright, Co-chair of Liberal Rabbinic ConferenceRabbi Richard Jacobi, Co-chair of Liberal Rabbinic Conference; Rabbi Josh Levy, Co-Chair of the Reform Rabbinic Assembly; and Rabbi Dr. Jackie Tabick, Convener of the Reform Rabbinic Court. Read the full article at the Jewish News Online

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