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The Immigration Crisis

07/26/2019 07:30:00 PM


The following is Cantor Croll's sermon from July 26, 2019.

Jan and I attended a play last weekend called “Crossing The Line.”  The play is an original documentary-style performance focusing on the immigration debate and the situation at the border.  The actors, as young as 14 and as old as 18, created a script from interviews they conducted in Dallas, via Skype, and at the border of Mexico and Texas. They spoke with government representatives, holocaust survivors, doctors, psychologists; they even had a chance to speak with teenage detainees.  The actors memorized verbatim what they had heard. 

Cry Hovac is the name of this Theatre Group. They’ve been tackling social justice issues and human rights issues that have been plaguing our country for the last five years.  Last year their play dealt with Gun Control. Next year they’ll be presenting a new script with Climate Change as their topic.

The actors were guided by two amazing adults who taught them to present both sides of the debate.  

For me the lasting effect of “Crossing the Line” was to understand the inhumane way our country is treating human beings, the vast majority of whom are fleeing violence and murder in their home country.

Jewish tradition places great importance on just treatment of immigrants; our faith demands of us concern for the stranger in our midst in at least 36 ways.  In Leviticus G-d commands: “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong.  The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love them as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” [19:33-34].

Our own people’s history as “strangers” reminds us of the many struggles faced by immigrants today.

Remember the Voyage of the Damned during World War II?  The St. Louis, the German  ocean liner known for carrying more than 900 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany in 1939 intending to escape the Holocaust to disembark in Cuba.  However they were denied permission to land.  The captain then went to the United States and Canada, trying to find a nation to take the Jews in, but both nations refused.  He finally returned the ship to Europe, accepted some refugees.  Many were later caught in Nazi roundups of Jews in occupied countries.  Historians have estimated that approximately a quarter of them died in death camps during the war. 
They try to present an even picture of both sides of the question: what should the U.S. do to handle the enormous influx of immigrants at America’s borders?

The play is running until next Sunday, August 4.  I urge all of you to see it. (We’re going again next Friday night.  If you’re interested in coming with us, talk to Jan after services.)

Because of what I witnessed last week I have been moved to attend a gathering of Clergy and Laypeople in El Paso this Sunday and Monday, to protest how the United States’ immigration and refugee policies have reached a tipping point.

I agree that Congress must pass comprehensive immigration policies but the haphazard ever-changing policies of this administration must be dealt with now.  Citizens of the United States must be reminded daily about what is going on in these detention camps.

I will be joining Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, along with Rabbi Andrew Paley, Imam Omar Suleman and Pastor Neil-Cézares-Thomas representing Dallas.  Also present will be
his ongoing initiative of peaceful demonstrations called Repairers of the Breach.  This is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to: “build a moral agenda rooted in a framework that uplifts our deepest moral and constitutional values to redeem the heart and soul of our country. Our deepest moral traditions point to equal protection under the law, the desire for peace within and among nations, the dignity of all people, and the responsibility to care for our common home.”

At this event, hundreds of faith leaders and laypeople will be speaking out against the U.S. government’s unprecedented increase in cruel and inhumane attacks on refugees, immigrants, and asylum-seekers – because what’s happening at the border right now does not align with the values of this country, nor with the Jewish values the Reform Movement holds dear.
Earlier this month, in the wake of news about planned ICE raids, Rabbi Jacobs wrote: 

“What is our task, amidst our moral outrage? It is our role to advocate tirelessly for a just immigration system and to help bring about real and lasting change.

“Our Reform Jewish community is working to end child detention, reunite families, and protect DREAMers, TPS holders, asylum seekers, and others.”

And you my friends have the power to make a difference in the lives of the thousands of individuals impacted at our borders.  How?

  1. Contact your elected officials: Tell Congress it’s time to end immigrant detention and ensure all those currently being held are treated with dignity and respect. 
  2. Join the Reform Movement by Visiting the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism's Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus Initiative Immigrant and Refugee Justice Action Center. 
  3. Get involved in your community: Reach out to local immigrant justice groups.
  4. Write a letter to the editor of the Dallas Morning News, expressing your outrage about what’s happening at the border and encouraging others to join in this work.
  5. Share your support online: Take to social media to contact your elected officials and to talk about what’s happening at our borders. You can share action items, news stories, and more, to encourage others to join this vital work.
  6. At the Very least: go online or call… the Trinity River Arts Center to purchase tickets to see “Crossing the Line,” and be as moved as Jan and I were.  The last performance is next Sunday, August 4th at 2PM. 

Together, we pray...

As Reform Jews, we have long been steadfast and active in our commitment to immigrant justice, guided by the Torah’s repeated demand to love the stranger, or immigrant, in our midst.  We support immigration policy that is just and compassionate, and we will not stop until families are reunited, asylum seekers are no longer treated as criminals, and our immigration system is reformed.

To follow along with this weekend’s events at the border, be sure to follow@URJPresident and @TheRAC on Facebook, and like the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism on Facebook.


A Prayer Against Detaining Children​ by Alden Solovy

God of the captive,
God of the imprisoned and detained,
The voice of heartbreak echoes across the land,
Children rejected at our sunset gates,
The Mother of Exiles weeps for the innocent,
Their journey to Liberty bringing detention, deprivation and death.Has compassion fled our borders?
Has the lamp at our door been extinguished?
Has Justice abandoned her post? 

Source of comfort and hope,You call upon us to stand in the name of the children,
To witness against mistreatment and neglect,
To fight a government that separates parents from minors
At the border of our nation, Flaunting power, Ignoring decency and law, Allowing the innocent to die.

Bless those who dedicate their lives to human rescue.
Grant them the fortitude to battle in the name
Of the unknown, the unseen,
Those who cannot be forgotten.
May the work of their hands never falter,
Nor despair deter them from their holy calling.

Bless those in human bondage with hope and courage.
Grant them the strength and the fortitude
To face the indignities and privation forced upon them.
Hasten their release.
Grant them lives of health and prosperity,
Joy and peace. Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who releases the captive.

Baruch ata Adonai Eloheynu melech ha-olam, matir asurim.

Tue, July 23 2024 17 Tammuz 5784