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Paris and the Refugees

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 12:00am -- Rabbi Jennifer Jaech

After Paris

Like many of you, I have been following with a heavy heart the news of the horrific terror attacks in Paris.  Students of history know that one event like this can set into motion other events that reshape our world.  At the time of the 9/11 attack in 2001, we didn't know what would happen in the aftermath, but I remember feeling that nothing would be the same afterwards.  Indeed, that attack led to our nation's initiating two wars, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq.

The attacks in Paris seem to have that power as well.  The French Muslim community already feels under scrutiny, and a backlash against immigrants appears to be growing.  Many in leadership position across our nation are already hardening their hearts to the plight of the Syrian refugees, based on the information that one of the Paris terrorists had a Syrian passport and posed as a migrant.[1]

This past September, as the desperate plight of the Syrian refugees was receiving a lot of media attention, one of the members of our interfaith Croton Clergy group raised the possibility that our communities of faith might jointly sponsor the resettlement of a Syrian refugee family in our area.  The possibility was well-received.  Temple Israel has some experience with helping immigrants.  In recent decades we have helped to resettle a Cambodian family and a Muslim student from Bosnia.

We don't know whether we will ultimately be able to help a Syrian refugee family in the same way that we have helped others fleeing war and persecution in the past.  Immigrant families waiting to enter the United States face a long and arduous process, and if/when the families enter the U.S., it is uncertain where they will ultimately settle. 

But I’m left this this question: Will the Paris attacks derail our determination to help the immigrants who are trying to live in peace and safety?  Will we embrace the Torah's commandment to "not oppress the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt," or will we, like Pharaoh in the Exodus story, let fear harden our hearts to their suffering?  If we follow Pharaoh's example, the terrorists win. 

I'm not willing to give them that victory.

For more information on the Reform Movement's position on Syrian refugees, please click here

 


[1] NY Times November 16, 2015, GOP Governors Vow to Close Doors to Syrian Refugees

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