This article originally appeared on Pardes under the title “Resource for Rabbis: The Immigration Crisis in Israel and Beyond.”
Please note: This resource is an attempt to be nuanced, but not objective. It is intended for rabbis inclined to give a sermon sympathetic to the plight of the refugees.
On February 1, the 1,500 asylum seekers interred in the Holot detention facility began to receive notices that they have thirty days either to accept a $3,500 incentive to be deported “voluntarily” to a third unnamed country or to be jailed indefinitely. As other male asylum seekers go to renew their visas, they too will be told that they have two months to make the same decision.
Liberal Jews in the Diaspora and Israel, including several rabbinic groups, as well as many intellectuals, doctors, Holocaust survivors and others, are afire with protest. A number of advocates have gone so far as to compare the asylum seekers to Jewish refugees during the Shoah. However, the Chief Rabbinate, together with many rabbis, has supported the government, claiming that “our poor come first” (bBM 71a).
Many of the same dilemmas face American Jews as they confront Trump’s recent threats not to renew DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
At one level, the debate in Israel is about facts. Are the Africans illegal infiltrators in search of work, or are they refugees (based on the UNHRC definition) facing a “well-founded risk of persecution or death” if returned to Eritrea and Sudan?
On closer look, however, ideology seems to underlie which set of “facts” Israelis choose to believe.
Click here to download the PDF of the full source sheet and article by Rabbi Dr. Meesh Hammer-Kossoy.
Want to learn more? Check out Meesh Hammer-Kossoy’s online social justice course “Feminist Social Action-Based Inspiration for Jewish Interpersonal Ethics,” the first session of which (see below for more details) focuses entirely on the refugee crisis.
SESSION 1: “HEARING HER CRY: A WOMEN’S RESPONSE TO THE REFUGEE CRISIS”.
Click on these links to download these 4 study units for this course:
Meesh Hammer-Kossoy teaches Talmud and the Social Justice Track at Pardes. Originally from Washington, D.C., Meesh has a B.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University, and a M.A. and Ph.D. from New York University. Her dissertation explored the courageous manner in which the rabbis of the Talmud created a new criminal punishment system. In 2015, Meesh completed her studies at Beit Midrash Har’el and received ordination from Rabbi Herzl Hefter and Rabbi Daniel Sperber. Click here to read more.
Cover image, depicting African refugees in Israel, courtesy of Wikimedia.