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A Prayer for the Children Separated from their Families

A Prayer for the Children Separated from their Families

Families Belong Together

On Thursday, May 31st, Rabbi Mara Nathan offered the following prayer at the San Antonio, Texas #WhereAreTheChildren rally, in response to widespread reports of the brutal policy of family separation at the U.S. border and mistreatment and neglect of undocumented immigrant children in federal custody: 

We are a nation of immigrants.
Each ethnic group in our country has a story to tell.
As a Jew, my family’s journey to America from Eastern Europe in the early 1900s was spurred on by religious violence and persecution, poverty and discrimination.
The members of my family…. of thousands of other Jewish families were separated for months and even years…sometimes forever.
Wretched and dangerous travel conditions across the Atlantic Ocean were endured.
Horrible working and living conditions were tolerated.
All of this to ensure safety and a better future for the members of the family who would come after.

And whether your family has been here for 7 generations or 7 months, your people also came here for a better, safer future.
I am sure that your people’s story is much the same.

But it is easy to forget where we came from.
It is easy to disregard how each of us, has at some time been seen as the other.
But we must not forget. We must not turn away.
We must not violate our American heritage as a nation of immigrants.

As a person of faith, I look to the prophetic tradition of the Hebrew Bible for inspiration and guidance on how to live my life.

The Bible tells us again and again that we are commanded to welcome the stranger.
We are commanded again and again to protect the widow, the orphan, the vulnerable in our midst.
We are commanded to welcome the stranger for we were strangers in the land of Egypt.

The separation of migrant children from their families at the border is abhorrent and cruel.
The reported physical mistreatment of minors, including pregnant teens and those who have recently given birth,
as well as the separation of children as young as 18 months old from their parents, is horrific.

As Americans, as people of faith, as human beings…. we cannot justify these actions.
There must be a more compassionate way.

At this moment…. we have come to gather, to be informed, to protest
But also, to pray.
And so, let us pray:

Holy One on High….
Our hearts are broken to see our fellow human beings treated with cruelty.
Our hearts are broken when we hear of small children being torn from their mother’s arms,
When we imagine their fears when we imagine their tears, we shed tears as well.

Protector of all….
Grant these parents and children strength to endure the journey of their lives.
Let them feel our love and concern….
Let them know that though they suffer their plight is not unknown.

Granter of compassion….
Imbue our leaders with compassionate hearts and sound minds.
Inspire them to make decisions that protect our boarders…Yes!
But also, decisions that protect the safety and dignity
of those who cry out to be saved….
of all human beings who want nothing more than safety and security….
a future for their families and their selves.

Avinu Shebashmayim…Our father on high…. Give us strength of purpose to speak up for what we believe in, to see the good in others, to act justly and to demand justice for those who cannot speak for themselves…. AMEN

Mara Nathan is the rabbi at Temple Beth-El in San Antonio, Texas.

Published: 6/06/2018