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L'Taken Participants Speak Out on Refugee Crisis

L'Taken Participants Speak Out on Refugee Crisis

Earlier this month, Reform Jewish high school students from around the country came to the nation’s capital for the first Bernard and Audre Rapaport L’Taken Social Justice Seminar of the 2015-2016 season. Becca Katz, Jonathan Weinberg and Brenna Hopkins from Temple Beth Jacob in Concord, NH, met with the offices of Senators Shaheen and Ayotte, as well as Representative Kuster, to advocate that their representatives in Washington oppose limitations on the U.S. refugee resettlement program. The following is an excerpt from their speech:

The Jewish tradition is very clear about the treatment of refugees and immigrants. We are to welcome them into our land and communities, and we are to support their integration into the larger society. The principle of welcoming the stranger is echoed 36 times throughout the Torah. This is the most mentioned commandment in all of the Bible. In the Book of Leviticus, we are commanded, “You shall love [the strangers] as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (19:33-34)…

Throughout our Jewish history, we have also been strangers in other lands. This history of diaspora helps the Jewish community to empathize with and to reaffirm our commitment to create the same safety and security for today’s refugees and immigrants that various nations, including the United States, offered to us many times in the past.

Today, 11 million Syrian refugees are fleeing their country and their homes, way of life, culture, and their livelihood. Too many in our society fear that the terrorists are hidden among the refugees or immigrants.  The fear of attack should not hold us back or overshadow our values. In the book of Micah, we are taught, “and each shall sit under their vine and fig tree, and none shall make them afraid” (4:4). What this means is that each different religious or ethnic or cultural community might sit under its vine or fig tree, but that we should not be afraid of each other, for we are all humans created in God’s image, b’tzelem Elohim

I have an incredibly personal connection with the issue of immigration. My sister and I were born in Russia into a large family; the number of children proved to be too great of a burden for my birth parents, and all seven of us were taken by the government and placed into different facilities. These included baby homes, orphanages and boarding schools. My sister Micaela and I were lucky enough to be adopted in September of 2001 by our very loving parents and brought to live in America; the papers were signed on Thanksgiving Day. We were the only ones of our siblings to be adopted…

I am a dedicated student, daughter and American. I was not born in America, so I had my citizenship and name changed. My roots are deep in Russia, and they always will be, yet I am dedicated to America and am even more dedicated to helping improve it. During my studies with L’Taken, I was incredibly moved when we learned about the refugee and immigration crisis. Had I not been allowed to immigrate to America, I would not be here to share my beliefs with you as an American, and a Jew. Refugees and immigrants are just as capable of helping to improve America as a native born American, and I am living proof of that.

Due in part to the efforts of the Reform Movement and its partners, no anti-refugee riders were included in the text of the FY2016 omnibus budget agreement. There may, however, still be attempts to restrict the resettlement of refugees in the coming months. Add your voice as we call on Congress to address the humanitarian crises in Syria and around the world by opposing limits on the U.S. refugee resettlement program.

Adam Waters is a 2015-2016 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. He grew up in Coral Springs, FL, and was a member of Temple Beth Orr. Adam graduated from Brown University.

Adam Waters

Published: 12/21/2015