The Michigan Board of Rabbis joins with the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Rabbinical Assembly, the Cantors Assembly, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Orthodox Union, the Rabbinical Council of America, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Republican and Democrat government leaders, and other U.S. and global Jewish organizations in condemning the recent executive order barring many refugees and immigrants from entering our country.
Certainly, preservation of life is among the highest of Jewish values, and the preservation of one’s own life and that of one’s family certainly takes precedence over another’s life (Babylonian Talmud Bava Metzia 62a).
Therefore, we support the executive order’s goal of ensuring “that those admitted to [the United States] do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles … [and prohibiting the admission of] those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender or sexual orientation.”
As our community’s JCRC/AJC wrote in its statement, “We live in a dangerous world, and as such we endorse appropriate, lengthy and stringent background checks for all potential refugees.”
However, for many reasons, including feeding the terrorists’ propaganda and that the vast majority of those seeking entrance to our country are fleeing oppression, this executive order fails to fulfill its own goals and, furthermore, it serves as an affront to religious people everywhere.
The Torah demands, “You shall not stand by the blood of your friend” (Leviticus 19:16). Based on this mitzvah (sacred obligation), our rabbis conclude that if one sees another in a life- threatening situation, then one is obligated to intercede in order to save a person from certain harm — even if saving that person holds the potential to put the rescuer’s life in danger (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 73a).
In addition, we hold dear the Torah’s frequent reminder that we Jews understand what it is like to be considered the “stranger,” and thus we hold aloft the teaching, “And you shall not wrong a stranger, neither shall you oppress them; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21).
Finally, we are disturbed that this executive order violates our moral obligation, “Justice, justice you shall pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20), by fomenting xenophobia and creating an unjust and immoral religious test for those seeking life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Therefore, in our desire and our efforts to protect the United States of America — its citizens and residents, its laws and ideals — and in our faith’s expectation that we strive to lead Jewish lives of holiness and righteousness, we call upon President Donald Trump to rescind this executive order. We further pray that we shall work together to help bring the day when “every person shall sit under his/her vine and fig tree and none shall make them afraid” (Micah 4:4).
Rabbi Marla Hornsten is president of the Michigan Board of Rabbis. This letter was also signed by other rabbis of that organization.