Saturday evening begins the Jewish holiday of Purim, our festive celebration full of merriment, groggers, costumes and drinking until we don’t know the difference between Haman (villain) and Mordechai (hero). The revelry of Purim often overshadows the important lesson the holiday offers us. The holiday is the story of dangerous governmental power and the courage of one woman to stand up to that power and save an entire community.
This Shabbat, the Shabbat preceding Purim, is Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat of remembrance. In synagogue tomorrow a special reading from the Book of Deuteronomy is added to the Torah reading. The ironic passage tells us to both remember and forget, “You shall blot out the memory of Amalek [the ancestor of Haman who plots to destroy the Jews in the Purim story] from under heaven. Do not forget!” Deuteronomy 26:19. We are commanded to remember the evil that we have encountered in our history and simultaneously blot out such evil from the face of the earth.
This week each of us, Jewish and non-Jewish, synagogue attendees and secular Jews, must heed this powerful call. On Monday President Trump signed a new Executive Order halting the U.S. refugee program and banning travel to the United States from six majority Muslim countries for 90 days. The executive order is revised in some very important ways from the original ban (you can read a synopsis here
). However, the effect on refugees is the same. When the ban takes effect on March 16 refugees from any country will be banned for 120 days from entering the United States. There are currently 61,467 refugees approved to come to the U.S. who will be impacted. (as of March 1, 2017; this number includes 7,879 Syrians, 13,302 Somalis, 1,666 Sudanese, 28 Yemenis, 597 Iranians).
This Executive Order, like the original one, also takes the devastating effect of cutting the number of refugees permitted to enter the U.S. this fiscal year from 110,000 to 50,000. This is the lowest resettlement cap in the history of the program which resettled Jewish refugees during World War II, Vietnamese refugees in the 1980’s and many others from around the world. During the largest forced migration crisis in recorded history, it is reprehensible for our country to close its doors.
The president signed the order in the Oval Office with no fanfare, outside the view of reporters and news cameras on the same day that the new health care bill was released. Such a series of events seem to be a tactic to avoid the same outcry and national protest that followed the signing of the original ban. Therefore, we must double down in our efforts to raise our voices against the immorality and injustice of the ban.
As we remember and celebrate the victory over the discrimination and near destruction of the Jewish community in the Purim story, we must stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters to work to overturn this new executive order. Like Esther, we must use our power as established members of this country to help those seeking safety and security in our country.Please join me in taking action:
- By joining HIAS’s #BeEsther for Refugees campaign
- And by continuing to call your legislators to protest the ban.
Shabbat Shalom and Hag Purim Sameach,
Rabbi Renée Bauer and Dawn Berney
Come to Two Training for Staff and Volunteers
1. United for a Safe Community (March 23, 5-8pm)
2. Immigration Legal Issues in the U.S. (March 30, 8:30-10am)
Session 1: United Way of Dane County, in partnership with community agencies, including JSS invites you to an evening of facilitated discussions around the ways we can work together to address the increasing hate behaviors and crimes occurring in our community. These discussions will concentrate on best practices on how to work with families who are facing fear, bullying, and anxiety in regards to discrimination. Resources and food will also be available to all participants.Childcare available upon request.