The decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the Muslim travel ban is devastating and shameful. It will not only harm those Muslims seeking refuge and/or reunification with their family in America, but it will also fuel a dangerous and very real animus toward Muslims who for generations have called America their home.
A word about the context in which I read about this decision:
I am in Israel, and this past Sunday, our fourth day in Jerusalem, we brought our group to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum and memorial in Jerusalem. I have been many times over the years, but to my surprise, I found this visit more arresting and devastating than ever before.
One of the many things that Yad Vashem does shatteringly well is show that Hitler’s Final Solution didn’t come from out of nowhere. The Nazis rooted their ideology in a vicious, pre-existing Jew hatred that was already deeply embedded in the culture. This is what made the machinery of genocide possible in only a few years’ time.
That, and the fact that the Nazi Party ran moral test balloons over their first couple of years in power: How will the general population react to the demonization of a minority community? Will people protest if we restrict their rights and dignities? What are the masses willing to fight for, and what will they excuse, allow, forgive?
For good reason, we’re often reluctant to draw analogies between the Holocaust and any other experience of human suffering. And yet, we fail the victims and the survivors if we do not take from the Jewish people’s suffering a desperate and eternal wake-up call to the danger of virulent, state-powered hatred in easily manipulate-able societies.
From the outset, our current administration has tapped into and fueled age-old racism and bigotry against Muslims, African Americans, Mexicans and other immigrants. And it has launched one test balloon after another, pulling back just enough to quiet our ire until it resurfaces with the newest, most shocking attempt to demonize and diminish. (Just now we learn that the administration has no intention of reuniting children taken from their parents at the border, unless the parents drop their claims for asylum.)
And all the while, enough people in power have demonstrated their willingness to stand by as our democratic norms and institutions are savaged, to comply blindly as the rights of our most vulnerable minority communities are trampled.
It is clear to me that it’s up to people of conscience to rise to meet this moment. We who have learned the lessons of history will not allow the Muslim American community to stand alone today. When future generations study this political moment, I pray that they’ll see a generation that, armed with the lessons of the past, rose up, together, to protect and love one another, to defend one another’s rights and to defend the democratic institutions charged with preserving them.
Rabbi Sharon Brous is the founding rabbi of IKAR and an Auburn Senior Fellow based in Los Angeles.