Rabbinic Letter Against Asylum Seeker Deportations

The following letter, organized by T’ruah, the New Israel Fund, HIAS, and Right Now, was delivered to two Israeli embassies and seven consulates on January 30, 2018. Over 900 rabbis, cantors, and rabbinical/cantorial students signed it; the names below represent the initial signatories.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

We write as Jewish clergy from around the world to urge you to stop the deportations of asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea who have sought refuge in Israel.

As a country founded by refugees, and whose early leaders helped to craft the 1951 International Convention on the Status of Refugees, Israel must not deport those seeking asylum within its borders. We Jews know far too well what happens when the world closes its doors to those forced to flee their homes.

The asylum seekers who have come to Israel are escaping torture, enslavement, and war. We are angered by reports that many of those who have been deported to Africa have already suffered rape, robbery, torture, and human trafficking.

We urge your government to start living up to Israel’s international responsibilities as spelled out in the International Convention on the Status of Refugees. This includes providing asylum seekers a fair chance to file applications for refugee status, and refraining from deporting asylum seekers to countries that cannot guarantee their safety. This also entails that your government begin to examine these applications in an effective, fair, transparent, and impartial manner.

The Torah teaches, “The ger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were gerim in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34). Our own experience of slavery and liberation, and our own experience as refugees, compel us to act with mercy and justice toward those seeking refuge among us. Please affirm these Jewish values, as well as Israel’s international commitments, by stopping the deportations.

Rabbi Jonathan Blake
Rabbi Sharon Brous, IKAR
Rabbi Ayelet Cohen, New Israel Fund
Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, Hebrew College
Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Progressive Zionist Caucus
Rabbi Elliot Dorff, American Jewish University
Rabbi Amy Eilberg
Rabbi David Ellenson
Rabbi Lawrence Englander
Rabbi Laura Geller, Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills
Rabbi Rachel Grant Meyer, HIAS
Rabbi Arthur Green, Hebrew College
Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt
Rabbi Shai Held
Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann
Rabba Sara Hurwitz
Rabbi Jill Jacobs, T’ruah
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Reform Judaism in the UK
Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, T’ruah
Rabbi Jay Kornsgold
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah
Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie, Lab/Shul NYC
Rabbi Robert Levine, Congregation Rodeph Sholom NYC
Rabbi Asher Lopatin
Rabbi Brian Lurie
Rabbi Roly Matalon, B’nai Jeshurun NYC
Rabbi Lea Muhlstein, Arzenu, Jewish Agency Board of Governors
Rabbi Daniel Nevins
Rabbi Aaron Panken, HUC-JIR
Rabbi Lee Paskind
Rabbi Ephraim Pelcovits, New Israel Fund
Rabbi Scott Perlow
Rabbi Danny Rich, Liberal Judaism in the UK
Rabbi Jennie Rosenn
Rabbi John Rosove, Temple Israel of Hollywood LA, ARZA
Rabbi Sid Schwarz, Hazon
Rabbi Felicia Sol, B’nai Jeshurun NYC
Rabbi Shira Stutman, Sixth & I Historic Synagogue
Rabbi Rachel Timoner
Rabbi Gordon Tucker
Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities
Rabbi Elyse Wechterman, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Rabbi Josh Weinberg, ARZA
Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg