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Responding to Paris Attacks and the Escalating Refugee Crisis

Responding to Paris Attacks and the Escalating Refugee Crisis

Last week, Paris experienced disturbing terror attacks, shocking not just the French people, but entire world. In response the World Union for Progressive Judaism issued a statement expressing solidarity with the people of France and calling on us to “stand with those who treasure pluralism and protect democracy to bring an end to this cycle of evil.”

Additionally, Rabbi Aaron Panken, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, who was spending Shabbat with his son in Paris, wrote of his experience during the attacks. He highlighted the importance of community following such attacks saying that “terror had, once again, turned singing into mourning, but it could not overcome the essential power of sacred community.” During tragic times such as these, we must unite as a community to mourn for the innocent lives lost, and stand for justice for all.

Sadly, following the attacks in Paris there has been a wave of anti-refugee rhetoric. In response, the Union for Reform Judaism joined over 80 refugee and immigration law experts, humanitarian aid organizations, faith, labor and civil and human rights groups in sending a letter to the U.S. House and Senate urging them to stand up for the nation’s core values and “speak out against the scapegoating of any group during this time of crisis.”  RAC Director Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner also issued a statement rejecting calls to limit Syrian refugees, and reminding us that “we cannot allow the violence wrought by ISIS and its allies to overshadow our values as Americans and as Reform Jews.”

Although national security is an important issue at this time, we have the ability to both uphold our values of being a welcoming nation and providing a safe haven to those in need and promote safety and security for all. The United States’ 18-24 month, multi-step refugee screening process, which includes multiple in person interviews and biometric and biographical information collection for background check, is the most extensive in the world. As we are taught in the book of Micah (4:4), “and each shall sit under their vine and fig tree, and none shall make them afraid”. By refusing refugees, we would be playing into the goals of ISIS to create terror and division throughout the world.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a bill, the American SAFE Act of 2015 (H.R. 4038), that would effectively stop the refugee resettlement program. The White House has released statements in support of continued resettlement and this bill was passed despite President Obama’s threat of a veto.  This bill is expected to be voted on in the Senate very soon.

Take action to urge your Members of Congress help address this humanitarian crisis by opposing any effort to limit refugees of certain religious backgrounds or those from Syria. To find more resources about refugees visit our refugee crisis response page

To engage further on this issue, you can make calls to your Senators’ and Representatives offices and ask them to support refugee resettlement by calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. 

When you call, tell the staff member you speak with that you support welcoming refugees. Please see below for some sample talking points to guide your conversation:

  • As Reform Jew from [City, State] I support the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States, and I urge the Senator/Representative to oppose any legislation that would halt or restrict funding to the U.S. refugee resettlement program.
  • We can ensure our security and fulfill our highest aspirations as a nation rooted in compassion and commitment to religious liberty
  • Attempts to block refugee resettlement echo such dark moments in U.S. history as when our country turned away Jewish refugees fleeing the turmoil and violence of World War II
  • The U.S. has accepted over three million refugees since 1975, yet no terrorist attacks in the US have been committed by refugees
  • The United States currently screens all refugees for 18-24 months prior to entry through a robust and extensive process that includes 13 levels of security


Rachel Landman is the assistant director of 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy in Byfield, MA, where she ran the inaugural summer Israel program, which focused on exploring Israel through the lens of science and technology. She holds a degree in biology from Hamilton College and served as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. She is an alumna of URJ Crane Lake Camp and grew up at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue in Brooklyn, NY. 

Rachel Landman

Published: 11/20/2015