Rabbi Maralee Gordon shared this from the July 12 Lights for Liberty vigil in McHenry County, Ill., which incorporated T’ruah placards.
Friday night there was a Lights for Liberty rally and a vigil at the county jail two miles from my home. We had an early Shabbat dinner before heading over. I was the first speaker and the only faith leader to speak, followed by testimony from immigrants and advocates. So I spoke about how our religious teachings compel us to treat the immigrant. I used T’ruah posters to illustrate my talk, held up by a friend of mine, a Presbyterian minister.
Here are my words:
I have been a faith leader in McHenry County for 32 years, first as education director at McHenry County Jewish Congregation, then as rabbi. Through FaithBridge Interfaith I have learned so much from so many religions; through the Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants, I have walked the path with our immigrant brothers and sisters, along with individuals of many faith backgrounds.
Why? Because our religious teachings inform our ethical obligations to refugees, asylum seekers, and to all those who cross borders in search of a better life; a life of safety and economic sufficiency.
As soon as I learned that ICE was detaining immigrants in this jail, ten years ago, I signed up to visit with them. Why? Ingrained in my psyche were the teachings of the Hebrew Bible (which Christians call the Old Testament), calling on us to remember our ill-treatment as foreigners in the land of Egypt, 3500 years ago; remembering our oppressions and fulfilling the obligation to help those who are oppressed in our midst as foreigners. Last month, after I visited with Mohannad, a young man with an American wife and three children in Kentucky, after I visited with him for many months here at the jail, I once again visited with him—but this time in Ramallah, Palestine, to which he had been deported in February.
But Leviticus 19:34-35 states: When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong them. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; [hold up T’ruah poster] you shall love them as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt; I the Lord am your God.
I act because I have been taught, from the Book of Numbers chapter 15: There shall be one law for you and for the resident stranger; it shall be a law for all time throughout the generations. You and the stranger shall be alike before God; the same ritual and the same rule shall apply to you and to the stranger who resides among you.
And I have acted because I have ingrained in me, [T’ruah poster] “Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” from Leviticus 19:16. And I have ingrained in me the notion [T’ruah poster] that “Silence is Complicity,” from the Talmud.
I know that many of my Christian colleagues feel compelled by these teachings, and by that of Matthew 25: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “
And I know my Muslim colleagues act as they have been taught, as described by Dr. Zeki Saritoprak of John Carroll University:
“The Qur’an speaks of oppressed and weak people on earth and suggests that they could migrate from their oppressed positions to another land of God. The verse says, “Was not the earth of God spacious enough for you to flee for refuge?” (4:97). The verse indirectly suggests that those who have authority should take care of refugees, since it speaks of God as the owner of the land. Therefore, the worldly owners and authorities should feel closeness and openness to those who are destitute and oppressed and therefore open the doors of their borders for them.” Would that our leaders would follow this Muslim teaching.
“As I sat down to breakfast this morning in Munich, I read about the Clint, Texas, border control station where children are being held in subhuman living conditions. I was met with the same harrowing sensations I felt yesterday when I visited Dachau, one of the most infamous concentration camps of the Holocaust. While the situations are not one and the same, they are remarkably similar with the reports of rampant widespread illness, starvation, and death. We are past the point of saying “Never Forget, [Never Again]” — I feel we have already forgotten and we are letting it happen again. “
[T’ruah poster] This rally is what Never Again looks like!