Reform Jewish Leader Joins Interfaith Response to Cruel and Inhumane Immigration Tactics

September 19th, Washington DC: Today, Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, joined a press conference with a range of faith leaders to call out the cruel and inhumane immigration tactics, initiated in recent weeks by Governors Greg Abbot (TX), Doug Ducey (AZ), and now Ron DeSantis (FL), transporting asylum seekers and other migrants to Washington, D.C., the New York metropolitan area, and now Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

Her remarks in full are below:

Good morning. My name is Barbara Weinstein, and I am the Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, part of the largest denomination in American Jewish life.

One week from today, Jews around the world will observe Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year. It is a moment to reflect on our actions over the past year, to repent and ask forgiveness for our misdeeds, even as we resolve to do better in the year to come. What’s remarkable is that the liturgy for this holiday frames this experience of reflection and repentance in the collective. We have sinned, we have transgressed, we ask God for mercy and forgiveness.

Let’s be clear: the failings of our immigration system are a collective failing. They do not belong to any one individual or any one state. Fixing what is broken in our immigration system is also a collective responsibility and I take heart from the outpouring of support provided by our congregations often in partnerships with houses of worship from the traditions represented on this Zoom and others. But the fact is it is past time for Congress and the Administration to take meaningful action to reform our immigration system, including the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.

That said, individual actions are making a bad situation infinitely worse. The decision by Governors Abbott, DeSantis, and Ducey to send planeloads and busloads of asylum-seekers to far-flung cities, by many accounts under false pretenses or with inadequate or misleading information, is a grave moral and policy failing. It is painful to even imagine the horrific circumstances that drive people to flee their home country and make a journey of great length and untold dangers in search of safety and security. They have travelled for weeks, often on foot. They’ve endured the kinds of peril and cost most of us will, thank God, never know. Violence, extortion, rape. And upon arrival, seeking asylum as they are legally allowed to do, they are treated with disdain. They are sent thousands of miles away to distant states, without clear explanation and without notifying the communities where they’ll be arriving so that preparations can be made to receive them. And none of this lives up to the teaching found across faith traditions that every individual is created in the image of the Divine; that every individual is worthy of dignity and respect. This is shameful.

In Judaism, we learn that during Rosh HaShanah our future is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed. In the intervening ten days, through repentance, we have the opportunity to change our fate. It is a lesson to us all and the governors would do well to remember that it is never too late to repent and repair. It is never too late to do what is right.

View the press conference.