Since January 20 the most talked-about topic in America is how far we should be going to protect our borders. Every Jew learns at an early age that “we were strangers in the land of Egypt,” and we should make a special effort to be kind to strangers. Hospitality is a mitzvah. At some point, all of our families were immigrants. Lack of opportunity for immigration during World War II led to the demise of Jews and others in Europe.
How can we justify an immigration policy that could cause people to suffer? How can we build walls, physically or otherwise, that interfere with the American concept of a melting pot where everybody can flourish?
President Donald Trump’s executive order including a 120-day suspension of the Syrian refugee resettlement program and a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. from citizens of certain countries has caused shock and outrage among many people. The administration reasons that the protection of American citizens is paramount, and “extreme vetting” is necessary.
Security is a critical issue. At our Jewish institutions, it is always a concern to be vigilant while trying to avoid being obvious to people. Even in a “bubble” like Irvine, there are incidents that need to be monitored. Watchful measures are being taken, enabling people to enjoy their worship services and other programs without worrying.
We hope a coherent policy emerges to allow innocent people to go about their business, people who need protection to get it and people to feel secure in our country. Perhaps Bill O’Reilly said it best: “Protecting Americans is priority number one. But the nobility of our nation demands we help suffering, helpless people if we can.”