Our Torah portion this Shabbat begins saying, “You stand this day, all of you, before Adonai your God” (Deuteronomy 29:9). The Torah then goes on to explicate who ‘all of you’ are and it includes the ger the stranger. At this important moment of standing before God the stranger, who lives among the Israelites, is included as part of the community. On this last Shabbat before the Jewish New Year our tradition calls us to stand with the entire community, citizen and newcomer alike. However, we are living in a country in which the national discourse is increasingly anti-immigrant and our lawmakers are attempting to keep immigrants and refugees out and divide, rather than unite people.
Since our last email to you the president has announced that he will end the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and the Supreme Court has reaffirmed that the travel ban on all refugees without close family members in the United States will remain in effect. JSS strongly opposes both of these actions and our work is directly affected.
Because of the Supreme Court’s upholding of the travel ban, JSS has had no new refugee families arrive in the last 90 days and are not sure when any more will come. One Syrian family that we did resettle this winter left in the early summer to reunite with family living in Kentucky. After just one month in Kentucky they decided to move back to Madison, where they felt much more at home. They returned and brought their extended family with them. Therefore, we have two new families with 12 members (and one on the way) here in our community. Our community has become a home where refugees want to bring their family, a community that has the resources and desire to welcome new families seeking safety. It is infuriating and heartbreaking that admissions have been stopped by the government and we are not able to resettle more people during the worst global displacement crisis in history.
We at JSS are doing all we can to assure that refugee program remains intact and that refugee admissions begin again soon. Last week, a group of JSS staff and volunteers (adults and teens,) along with World Relief Fox Valley, our resettlement partner in Oshkosh, met with Senator Ron Johnson’s regional director and legislative coordinator. We explained the details of resettlement work and urged the Senator to advocate to the president to set the ceiling on refugee admissions to at least 75,000. We also shared our concerns about ending the DACA program, offering to meet with the Senator to share stories about clients of our agencies who benefit from DACA. Later this month we will have similar meetings with Senator Tammy Baldwin and Representative Pocan’s offices.
This Saturday evening Jews around the world will gather for selichot services during which we begin the communal recitation of the penitential prayers, asking for forgiveness both individually and communally for our misdeeds of the past year. As we take stock in our actions we must ask ourselves how we are making sure that all our community can stand together and how we are taking action to protecting those who are being targeted by the current administration. We have included easy ways to take action below.
May this new year bring more justice to all who live in our community and all those who are seeking safety around the world.
Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah,
Rabbi Renee Bauer