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Four Anguished Questions on the Refugee Crisis

Dear Editor:

Lipstadt’s on the moral and political issues concerning policy on the Syrian refugee crisis raises four issues that trouble the author. One of the questions the author asks, is the “extent to which these new immigrants will commit to democratic principles.” This argument was raised several times at a Rosh Hashanah dinner I attended.

In 1998 I spearheaded an interfaith effort to house two Kosovo families into our community. One of the big surprises was learning that the families were forced to sign a contract before they were flown here, that they would repay the cost of the flight, (at I might add, an inflated price). This, I later learned was in accord with U.S. policy and presumably will happen again if the Syrian refugees are flown here. But if any contract is to be executed, it would be more profitable from a social perspective, to have every refugee agree to attend classes on what it means to share American values of freedom of speech and tolerance for diversity. There are programs in place for teaching English and requirements for citizenship. There needs to be an enhancement of the teaching modules, including practical exercises, teaching what it means accept diversity of culture and belief. And the classes should be free and mandatory.

Diversity has always been America’s strength. If we can assist people to share our language, and also importantly our common core values, while retaining their own customs, we have the potential to invigorate and strengthen our nation.

Elisa Sananman
Westfield, NJ

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