fbpx
Friday, June 5, 2020

Widows, Orphans, and Strangers at the Border

https://jewishjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/jj_avatar.jpg
Rabbi Robin Podolsky
Rabbi Robin Podolsky teaches Jewish Thought at California State University at Long Beach and serves as affiliated clergy at Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock. She strives to live and teach a Judaism that is rich with answers and productive questions for people who seek meaning, justice, and kindness in a complex world. She Rabbi Podolsky has published articles in the Journal of Jewish Ethics, the Pluralist, Response, and European Judaism.

Enjoying this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

“You will not undermine the justice due to a stranger or an orphan and you will not seize the widow’s garment as collateral.” Deuteronomy, 24:17

“Fathers and mothers have been humiliated among you, strangers have been cheated in your midst, orphans and widows have been wronged among you.” Ezekiel 22:7

“There is no greater or more glorious joy than bringing joy to the heart of the poor, the orphans, the widows and the strangers.” Maimonides, Hilchot Magila v’Hanukah, 2:17

On June 11, U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions ordered immigration judges to cease granting asylum in the United States to fugitives from domestic abuse and gang violence. This act should shock the conscience of every American, but for Jews it is a particular outrage.

Why does our Torah, echoed by our prophets and sages, exhort us repeatedly to care for the orphan, widow, and stranger and warn of catastrophes for those who ignore the call? In the patriarchal society of the ancient Hebrews, widows, orphans, and strangers were people without protection. They were socially naked, vulnerable, and, according to Jewish values, owed the community’s help.

Vulnerability is no shame in Judaism. We are all “the weak.” We are temporary, puncturable, fleshy creatures, puny even by mammalian standards. We are not made, as tigers are, to hunt alone. We are made to form communities, to speak, and to care. Our founding story of slavery and redemption reminds us of that mutual dependence and obligation which offers whatever glory humans can attain.

Women and children who live in countries where domestic abuse and violence are not taken seriously by authorities and where everyone but the most privileged is subject to impressment by brutal gangs are “members of a particular social group” with a “well-founded fear of persecution.” The Geneva Convention of 1951 and U.S. law allow such people to find asylum here.

Yet, when such families present themselves at the border of our country, they have been pulled apart. Children are yanked out of their parents’ arms and forced into detention without explanation, often by people who cannot communicate in the child’s language. They are kept away from parents for months at a time, inflicting trauma that will reshape their brains and wound their hearts for a lifetime. This has been happened to all border-crossers and asylum-seekers since May when Attorney General Sessions declared a “zero tolerance” policy for every person who is caught or who presents themselves without documents at our borders. Previously, such families could remain together until the parents could make their case in court. This brutality does not reflect ‘how things have always been,’ it is a terrible new policy of the current administration.

Now Attorney General Sessions has said that women who have been beaten, raped, mutilated, or threatened with death by domestic partners and been routinely ignored by authorities in their birth countries don’t count as persecuted people who need our help. He has said that teens who have been threatened with torture, including sexual violence, if they themselves do not aid the perpetrators of such violence cannot count on us either.

We American Jews cannot allow this to stand. The fugitives from patriarchal violence who arrive at our borders are the widows, orphans, and strangers of our day. They are precisely the people we are commanded to help—those who, because of their position in society, are denied the political means to defend themselves where they are. We whose ancestors found sanctuary here are obliged to be the welcoming neighbors for whom those ancestors prayed.

There is much we can do. We can support a bill introduced by our state’s Senator Diane Feinstein, the Keep Families Together Bill along with the Help Separated Children Act (S2937) and S2468, which provides free counsel for children in immigration court. We can call and write the office of the U.S. Attorney General. Every day. We can march today with Families Belong Together.

We learn in Gittin 61a that, “The Rabbis taught, we support the non-Jewish poor with the Jewish poor, and visit the non-Jewish sick with Jewish sick, and bury the non-Jewish dead with the Jewish dead, because of the ways of peace.” We also act on behalf of the widow, orphan, and stranger, no matter where they are from.

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Latest Articles

CA to Allow Bars, Gyms, Schools, Sporting Events to Reopen June 12

California will start allowing bars, gyms, schools, summer camps and professional sporting events to start reopening on June 12. The Associated Press reported the state...

Meet the Boogaloo Bois, the Violent Right-Wing Extremists Who (Mostly) Don’t Hate the Jews

There are men showing up to the George Floyd protests in body armor and Hawaiian shirts and they want to start a civil war.

Israeli BDS Activist Seeking Asylum in Canada Will Be Deported Back to Israel

An Israeli activist who had tried to claim asylum in Canada as a refugee is getting deported back to Israel.

Jewish Federation of L.A. Calls for ‘Immediate Action’ From Government Officials to Hold Police Accountable

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles (JFLA) will not tolerate system racism or police brutality within the Jewish community or any community. In its...

How Jews Can Be Better Allies to Black Americans

Many Jews are looking to be better allies against racism. Here's how.

Ohio Gov Removes National Guard Member From D.C. for Allegedly Espousing White Supremacy

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced on June 5 that he was removing a member of the Ohio National Guard from Washington, D.C., due...

York University Announces Measures to Address Anti-Semitism on Campus

York University in Toronto announced on June 2 that the university is going to be undertaking a series of measures to address anti-Semitism on...

This Week Taught Me How Out of Touch I Am About Race

Like many Americans, my opinions on these subjects, although well-meaning and no doubt PC, were nonetheless shallow.

Should My Business Be Sacrificed to Fight Police Brutality?

How does a business owner deal with this reality?

Watching ‘Uncut Gems’ Will Inspire You to Reexamine Black-Jewish Relations

Describing “Uncut Gems” as that movie that brought Adam Sandler rave reviews for playing a New York Jewish diamond dealer doesn’t do it justice.

Culture

Watching ‘Uncut Gems’ Will Inspire You to Reexamine Black-Jewish Relations

Describing “Uncut Gems” as that movie that brought Adam Sandler rave reviews for playing a New York Jewish diamond dealer doesn’t do it justice.

The Israel Film Center Festival Goes Virtual this Year. Here’s What You Need to Know

With theaters closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, movie releases largely have gone virtual, allowing fans to screen the latest films at home. This...

Black Jewish Woman Speaks out on Racism She Experienced at L.A. Jewish Day Schools

"As a black Jew, I've never faced more racism in my life than I have from the Jewish community and Jewish schools."

‘Mrs. America’ Is a Love Letter to Jewish Women

Who else could stand up to a figure as formidable, organized and savvy as Phyllis Schlafly?

Amid Accusations, Lea Michele Apologizes for Racist Behavior

The meal-kit company HelloFresh also responded quickly, terminating its relationship with Michele.

Latest Articles
Latest

CA to Allow Bars, Gyms, Schools, Sporting Events to Reopen June 12

California will start allowing bars, gyms, schools, summer camps and professional sporting events to start reopening on June 12. The Associated Press reported the state...

Meet the Boogaloo Bois, the Violent Right-Wing Extremists Who (Mostly) Don’t Hate the Jews

There are men showing up to the George Floyd protests in body armor and Hawaiian shirts and they want to start a civil war.

Israeli BDS Activist Seeking Asylum in Canada Will Be Deported Back to Israel

An Israeli activist who had tried to claim asylum in Canada as a refugee is getting deported back to Israel.

Jewish Federation of L.A. Calls for ‘Immediate Action’ From Government Officials to Hold Police Accountable

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles (JFLA) will not tolerate system racism or police brutality within the Jewish community or any community. In its...

How Jews Can Be Better Allies to Black Americans

Many Jews are looking to be better allies against racism. Here's how.

Hollywood

Harvey Weinstein Accused of Sexual Assault by 4 More Women, Including Minor in New York Lawsuit

A new lawsuit filed against Harvey Weinstein in New York city accuses the former film producer of raping four women, including one who was...

Lil Dicky Is the Larry David of Rap in His Show ‘Dave’

If you haven’t heard of the comic rapper Lil Dicky, and you are at least tangentially interested in rap or comedy, you should familiarize...


‘Love & Stuff’ Sees Life, Death and Motherhood Through a Jewish Lens

How do you cope with both the death of a parent and the artifacts she left behind, while preparing to become a mother yourself...

Podcasts

Pandemic Times Episode 53: Are We Turning the Corner of Pandemic Times?

New David Suissa Podcast Every Morning. Reflections on how one mega-story has taken over another, and what it means moving forward. How do we manage our...

Pandemic Times Episode 52: Dealing with the Rise of Jew-Hatred

New David Suissa Podcast Every Morning. Author Severyn Ashkenazy discusses the plague of anti-Semitism and his new book, Swords of the Vatican, Reflections of a...

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

x