This statement of the Jewish Community Relations Council on refugees and immigrants was unanimously approved by the Board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg at its meeting on February 2, following the White House Executive Order of January 29, 2017.
Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg Statement on the President’s Refugee & Immigrant Executive Order
Deeply rooted in our tradition, faith, and values, we are a people of immigrants and refugees. Throughout our history, we have often been the stranger in a strange land. We have been persecuted and attacked simply for being the Other. The value our faith has taught us is not to do to others as they have frequently done to us, but rather to always do for others as we hope they will do for us. In particular, we choose to welcome those who seek shelter and safety, and the freedom of living in a democratic nation.
Our religious tradition repeatedly forbids us from oppressing the stranger. Exodus 22:21 commands us: “And you shall not wrong a stranger, neither shall you oppress them; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” We are told: “Do not return an oppressed person to his bondage. He shall live with you in the place that he chooses.” (Deuteronomy 23:16-17). Strangers welcomed Abraham and Sarah on their journey through Canaan; they in turn welcomed strangers into their tent and were told of the coming of their son Isaac; strangers pulled Moses from the Nile and set in motion our exodus from slavery to freedom.
We denounce in the strongest terms the Executive Order of January 29, 2017 by President Trump on immigrants and refugees. The order bars entry of all Syrian refugees, imposing an essentially religious test for entry to the U.S., and refusing entry to any individual coming from a list of majority-Muslim nations—betraying even those individuals who have supported our nation's military efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Jewish institutions throughout the US have overwhelmingly and consistently advocated for the rights of immigrants. We call on the US government to reject policy proposals that would halt, limit, or curtail refugee resettlement in the U.S. or prioritize certain refugees over others. Locally, Jews have and will continue to support the human rights of Muslim and other immigrants, refugees, asylum-seekers and others yearning for the opportunity for a better life that we know the United States, at its best, can provide. As we once welcomed Russian Jews who fled Soviet oppression, so too we welcome those who flee oppression today.
We completely reject the targeting of individuals based on their religion as an affront to fundamental Jewish values. We are all enriched by the diverse set of experiences that immigrants bring to our society. We see it not only throughout our economy and educational system, but also in our synagogues, camps, schools, and institutions where people of diverse backgrounds, countries of origin and experiences come together.
This executive order gives credence and fuel to those stoking the flames of religious hatred, making citizens of every nation on earth, including the United States, less safe for years to come.
The recent adoption by the United Nations of a resolution condemning Israeli settlements, and the abstention by the United States from the vote on this resolution, have prompted questions from members of the Greater Harrisburg Jewish community regarding the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg’s position on these events.
The Community Relations Council of the Federation expresses the hope that the United States and Israel can continue in the future to find common ground in order to move forward a peace process that insures the preservation of the secure and thriving Jewish state of Israel among neighbors who welcome its existence and harbor no enmity towards it. The bond between Israel and the United States has historically been unbreakable, rooted in our shared commitment to the values of democratic government and tolerance for diversity in our populations. We wish it to remain ever so.
Several of the Council’s core principles reaffirm our community’s steadfast devotion to the State of Israel. Those principles pledge that we will
The following links offer additional information and perspectives on the United Nations resolution and United States position:
Ed Finkelstein and Angela Lawson
Anonymous Family Gift, Brenner Family of Dealerships, Edward and Esther Beck, Steven and Faina Caplan, Dr. Howard Goldberg and Dr. Joanne Trapeni, Wright Halbert Family Philanthropic Fund, Mark and Janice Illfelder, Eric and Jerry Morrison, Bob and Donna Pullo, Debby and Raymond Rosen, Mark and Ruby Schmidt, M&T Bank, Lynne and Marty Shapiro, Bryan and Allison Siegelman, and Sue and Elliott Weinstein
Anonymous, Avi and Anat Beck, Jessica and Kenneth Brien, Harvey and Linda Freedenberg, Michael and Esther Furman, Peter Schnabel, Verded and Mickey Shefet, and Jenn Ross
Greater Harrisburg CRC Overview: Under the leadership of Julie Wright Halbert, Esq., our region’s Community Relations Council (CRC) has reemerged and is currently chaired by Marty Brill. Three committees address critical issues locally, nationally, and internationally: Communications (Co-Chairs Jennifer Ross and Jeanette Krebs), Public Affairs (Co-Chairs Steve Loux and Alex Halper), and Interfaith/Intra/faith (Co-Chairs Ted Merwin and Rabbi Carl Choper). The CRC works with representatives from the Greater Harrisburg community to proactively and reactively deal with issues seeking guidance from the Jewish Council of Public Affairs (JCPA) and input from our members. Every affiliated organization in the Greater Harrisburg community has a representative member of the CRC. For additional information about the Community Relations Council of the JFGH, please contact Jennifer Ross at 717-236-9555 x3104
The Community Relations Council (CRC) Israeli Speakers Educational Endowment of the Jewish Community Foundation of Central Pennsylvania was established in 2015 by Dr. Edward and Esther Beck and Dr. Gustav (z'l) and Rita Beck, to bring to Harrisburg and Central PA notable expert Israeli speakers representing the many different and diverse views and voices of a vital Israeli society to brief the Greater Harrisburg community on the many challenges facing Israel in this complex world. Speakers will be chosen by the CRC with the consent of the Board of Directors of The Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg.
It is hoped that enough funds could be raised to have at least two speakers per year in perpetuity and those interested in growing this important fund should contact Paulette Keifer.