Channeling Queen Esther’s Diplomacy In The Age of Trump

The story of evil trying to triumph over good is a story the Jewish community knows well.

Every Purim, we remember the heroic actions of Queen Esther, who took a stand against evil and reversed the plot of a man who planned to persecute and annihilate the Jewish people. Her quiet diplomacy helped her husband, King Ahashverosh, to build empathy toward the Jewish people - ultimately changing their fate. The secret to her success? She had a close and personal relationship with King Ahashverosh, the target of her advocacy, and was, therefore, uniquely positioned to help him expand his understanding and take action.

Against the backdrop of increased fear and xenophobia across the U.S., and repeated attempts by the government to bar refugees from the United States, the Jewish community today should follow in Queen Esther’s footsteps. Now more than ever, we need to reach out to those closest to us to speak up on behalf of people escaping violence and persecution, the world’s refugees. Many of us know someone who has expressed fear about welcoming refugees to the United States. We have an obligation to help them work through their anxieties and misconceptions and to listen and respond to their concerns. This will help reshape the discourse across the U.S., so that we can uphold the American legacy of welcoming refugees.

That is why, in honor of Purim, HIAS, the global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees, is challenging the American Jewish community to commit to have at least one conversation with a family member, co-worker or friend on behalf of today’s refugees.

These are not easy conversations to have. They also require us to think like Esther – to embrace what makes us uncomfortable or nervous and act in spite of those hesitations. It is not our responsibility to change every person’s mind with one conversation, but it is our responsibility to initiate those conversations.

Lives are at risk if we do not take action. In the wake of two devastating executive orders, the lives of tens of thousands of refugees around the world have been turned upside down. The language of the March 6 executive order concerning immigrants and refugees may have changed slightly from the original order issued on January 27, but the results for refugees are still the same. Though the order’s 120-day ban on resettling refugees in the United States may seem temporary, there is nothing temporary about it. Refugees who waited years to secure government-issued clearances will watch those approvals expire during the 120-day ban. Innocent men, women and children caught in the world’s most dangerous conflicts will potentially have no hope of ever finding safety here. This is a complete reversal of our long-held tradition of welcoming those fleeing violence and persecution.

With more displaced people in the world today than ever before, we have a responsibility to do better. It is up to all of us across the Jewish community to persuade our friends and family to stand on the right side of history and initiate face-to-face discussions with those whom we already know well but with whom we may not always bring up these issues.

Queen Esther ultimately saved thousands of lives with just a single conversation. Together, we have the power – one interaction at a time – to change hearts and minds to keep the doors of our country open. I hope you will join us.

This story "Channeling Queen Esther’s Diplomacy In The Age of Trump" was written by Rachel Grant Meyer.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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