Let Us Pass the Test

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In May 2013, Jewish Community Action participated in a rally outside of Senator Klobuchar's office, where Rabbi Amy Eilberg, a longtime JCA-member and activist, delivered a rousing speech in support of comprehensive immigration reform. In particular, Rabby Eilberg explained why Jews—who have a long history of migration and oppression, and a Bible full of clear instructions—must fight for the fair treatment of immigrants. On June 27, 2013, just one month after Rabbi Eilberg asked the U.S. Senate to vote in line with the wishes of the majority of Americans (and with Jewish values), Senator Klobuchar, Senator Franken, and 66 of their colleagues did just that, and passed an immigration reform bill that, while flawed, is a tremendous step forward. Next stop: the U.S. House. Read on for Rabbi Eilberg's speech, and to get involved with JCA's urgent work on federal immigration reform, contact Lauren today.

I am the child of immigrants to this country. And unless you are a Native American, here in this land long before white people came, or an African-American, brought here in chains on slave boats, so are you, part of the nation of immigrants that is America.

My most ancient ancestors were immigrants. If you are Jewish, Christian or Muslim, so were yours. Abraham and Sarah were immigrants, called to move to a new land where a blessed life awaited them. Isaac emigrated in times of famine. Jacob sent his sons to search for food in a foreign land. Joseph became the ultimate in successful immigration, becoming indispensable to his adopted land, saving masses of people from starvation.

Moses led his people—my people—on a journey of emigration from religious oppression to a land of promise. The Jewish people were a nation of immigrants for 2000 years, as we were expelled from one country after another; and wherever we moved, our host nation was blessed by our hard work, strong values, and ingenuity.

At the core of my identity as a Jew, and at the core of the Hebrew Bible which most Americans hold sacred, is a central command. Repeated more frequently than ANY OTHER commandment is the imperative to do justice toward the stranger in our midst:

“Do not vex the strangers or oppress them.” (Exodus 22)

“Do not wrong a stranger who resides with you in your land. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens: you shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19)

“Do not oppress a hired servant that is poor and needy, whether of your brothers and sisters, or of strangers that are in your land within your gates.” (Deuteronomy 24)

And on and on and on…

We call on the United States Senate to uphold these core values, held by vast numbers of Americans, teaching that the test of a society is its treatment of the stranger, the orphan and the widow—those whose skin is a different color, whose accent is unfamiliar, who are not from around here, who struggle to provide for their families; basic needs. An immigration system is a test for a just society. We implore the United States Senate: let us pass the test of decency, of compassion, and of justice toward the strangers in our midst.

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