December 19, 2014 · 27 Kislev

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Reform Jewish Leader Calls for Just and Humane Immigration Reform

Saperstein: Who are we to say that now that we are here, now that the courage and the hopes of our parents and grandparents in this nation of immigrants have been so richly vindicated, now the door must be closed.

Contact: Rachel Slomovitz or Cara Fisher
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Washington, DC - Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center, addressed today's bipartisan Senatorial press conference, where he called for a just and humane comprehensive immigration policy. His full statement follows:

I stand here today as an American and as a Jew. As one born to this land, and as the great-grandson of immigrants. I join those who believe in the words of Leviticus “The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

This week, Jews around the world are observing the Days of Awe – the week between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is a period of reflection: a time to assess our behavior over the past year and commit to improvement. So let us reflect.

In the past year, President Bush called for an immigration policy that secures our borders and honors our history as a land of immigrants.

In the past year, the Senate, with bipartisan support, adopted a comprehensive immigration bill that includes both enforcement and earned legalization.

In the past year, the House adopted a bill that closes our borders; a bill that penalizes undocumented immigrants who have lived, worked, paid taxes and raised families in our country; a bill that offers no path to legalization.

In the past year, people of faith across the country have called for an immigration policy that remembers that each of the 12 million men, women and children who seek a better life in our nation is created in the image of the divine. And we say now in the simplest terms to members of both chambers and to the President: no legislation is better than bad legislation, but just and fair legislation is what is best for all those who live here.

For over 350 years, our Jewish ancestors have immigrated to this country in search of a more hopeful life; a life free from religious persecution and economic hardship, a life where family members have the chance to be reunited and contribute to their adopted home. Today’s immigrants come here for the same reasons as our Jewish forebears. They come out of a love for their families, a passionate desire to earn a better life, a belief in the boundless opportunities of America, and perhaps, above all, high hopes for their children. In overwhelming majority, these are people of uncommon devotion to the very values we hold most dear, to hard work and to family values.

Who are we to say that now that we are here, now that the courage and the hopes of our parents and grandparents in this nation of immigrants have been so richly vindicated, now the door must be closed. Why would we say such a thing? Would saying such a thing not make a mockery of our American values?

The challenge we face is clear: We need comprehensive immigration reform. We need enhanced security at our borders, security derived from law but humane in its execution. We need a fair path to citizenship, a path to invitation rather than intimidation. Our welcome must be real and not grudging. Reform must include family reunification and a commitment to obey the law.

As Yom Kippur approaches, we are reminded anew that we must seek wholeness and healing. We must seek to be at one – at one with our nation’s noblest traditions, at one with these would-be new Americans, at one with one another. Then, come Thanksgiving, we will be able not only to sing “We gather together to ask for God’s blessing” we will deserve that blessing and truly embody the hopes of our founders, “e pluribus unum” – out of many, one.


The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.

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