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Jews Have A Biblical And Rabbinic Obligation To Oppose Trump’s Muslim Ban

On Tuesday, October 17, a U.S. district court issued a temporary stay on the administration’s Muslim Ban 3.0. Those seeking entrance to the U.S. are for the moment reprieved. Yet the government will continue to challenge the courts and ban Muslims from immigrating. I personally believe we must vigilantly oppose the government’s efforts.

My grandfather was one of the luckier immigrants in times past. Over a century ago, fleeing conscription from the Czar’s army, he traded on the fact that he shared the famous tea-merchant’s name, Visotzky, to make his way to Galveston. From there the Jewish community sent him directly to Chicago, where he lived until his death. That makes me a proud, second-generation American.

Other Jews haven’t had it so lucky. In the intervening century, the Jewish community fought to keep the doors of immigration open here in America. We were not always successful. When we failed, Jews and many other people died. The tragedy might have been averted had the United States had more open immigration policies.

The current American administration is once again trying to close our doors to those who seek to come here. Among them are those with well-established American families and broader communities. Among them are human beings who are fleeing war, famine, political and religious oppression. What they share in common is that they are virtually all Muslim.

But for the current court’s temporary stay, the administrations Muslim Ban 3.0 will go into effect. It displays the same anti-Muslim biases as the two earlier failed attempts. Most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea will be indefinitely banned from traveling to the United States. Iraqis and Venezuelans will also face additional restrictions. North Korea was added to earlier attempts to ban Muslims. True, it has no Muslim population, but note that it does not allow its citizens to emigrate to the U.S. North Korea was added to this list as window dressing to make it appear to be not exclusively anti-Muslim. The Venezuelans added to the earlier bans are but a handful of government officials, again a mere fiction to pretend this is not motivated by religious animus.

Further, Muslims from Iraq, Syria, and Yemen will be permanently banned. These are humans from war-torn countries, and they are fleeing wars in which the U.S. has played a role in creating the very conditions they flee. Iran already has a huge immigrant population in the U.S., including within the Jewish community. They, like almost all other immigrants, are hard-working and successful citizens or green-card holders. The African Muslims who are banned are all people of dark skin. In other words, this is a ban that targets Muslims, especially those who are non-white.

I once had the privilege of hearing the former Grand Mufti of Sarajevo, Imam Mustafa Ceric preach the Khutbah, or Muslim sermon, at the traditional Juma`a Friday service. What he taught the assembled Muslims is appropriate to this week’s Torah reading, Noah. Speaking of him, Ceric said “Friends, we all are in the same boat. The storm is raging outside. The only way to survive it is if we care for one another.” Imam Ceric ought to know, he survived the siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian war in the mid-1990’s. He watched his Muslims cut down by a steady tide of bullets. Yet he understood the message of the Quran was “to know one another” and to care for each other. Instead of hate, he preached love.

The Torah commands us to “love the Stranger, for you were strangers in the Land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19). Famously, the Talmud (Bava Metsia 59b) teaches that “the Torah warns us thirty-six and some say forty-six times” to love the stranger and to not wrong the immigrant. I can’t vouch for the Talmud’s math, but the moral lesson is clear: as Jews we are obligated to oppose the administration’s Muslim Ban 3.0 as it works its way through the courts.

The administration argues that this ban is to keep our country safe. But it will only further inflame anti-U.S. feelings by its scattershot and discriminatory nature. Would that this government spent as much time banning and denouncing the alt-right and neo-Nazis who march with torches against American citizens: Muslims, immigrants, blacks, and yes, Jews.

The administration provides no evidence that religious beliefs, national origin, race, or ethnicity are predictors of violence. That’s because none exists. Congress controls our immigration system and the President abuses his power by attempting to eliminate entire communities from it based solely on fear.

As Jews we are obligated to oppose this blatant discrimination. We must call our members of Congress and Senators. Dial (202) 224-3121, and connect to your representatives in Washington. Politely but clearly make it clear that you oppose this new ban and seek to end it once and for all. Peacefully demonstrate at local rallies. Have your synagogue adopt a recent immigrant family. Consider making your sanctuary one for those who are of doubtful immigration status. “Do not stand idly by” (Leviticus 19:16).

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