Culture, Justice, Politics, Religion

Sukkot, Immigration, and a Great Poster

From Rabbi Jill Jacobs of Jewish Funds for Justice and jspot:

On Sukkot, many of us invite ushpizin — honored guests, both living and dead — into our sukkah. During this period of vicious anti-immigrant rhetoric and raids, too often immigrants are viewed with suspicion rather than treated like guests to be honored.
We hope that you will join with individuals and institutions across the United States in extending a welcome to the immigrants who care for our children and aging relatives, work in our synagogues and schools, and add to the cultural and economic life of our communities. On Sukkot, when we remember the experience of being gerim — sojourners without a permanent home — we commit ourselves to helping others to find permanent homes for their own families.
To help us build sukkot that demonstrate our desire to welcome immigrant communities, the Jewish Task force for Comprehensive Immigration Reform has created a special poster. We hope that you will place this poster in your personal or institutional sukkot as a sign of your commitment to making America a safe place for immigrants.
This poster is available for purchase at Three sizes are available, in prices ranging from $6 to $18. Order soon to ensure delivery before the holiday begins next week. Click here to read the poster’s text.
For more information about immigration and Jewish perspectives on immigration, please visit our online resource center . There, you will find immigration fact sheets, time lines, text studies and divrei torah.
Best wishes for a wonderful and meaningful Sukkot.
Chag Sameach!
Rabbi Jill Jacobs
(on behalf of)
The Jewish Task force for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Jewish Funds for Justice and Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (co-conveners)
Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (Boston)
Jewish Community Action (Minneapolis/St. Paul)
Jewish Council for Urban Affairs (Chicago)
Jewish Council on Public Affairs
Jewish Labor Committee
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (New York)
Jews United for Justice (DC)
National Council of Jewish Women
Progressive Jewish Alliance (California)
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Shalom Center
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Workmen’s Circle/Arbeiter Ring

12 thoughts on “Sukkot, Immigration, and a Great Poster

  1. sojourner without a permanent home = Ger
    righteous sojourner without a permanent home = Ger Tzedek
    Is this accurate?
    My reading of the torah suggest that we had a permanent home, only we weren’t there yet, and other peoples needed to be removed first. Heh.
    What does this definition say about the notion of mobility in modern society? I’ve never though of the illegals washing my dishes in the restaurant as ‘sojourners.’ They are Mexicans who entered illegally to work, but who would like to legalize their status so they can go back and forth to Mexico as they please. And I’m not judging. Just wondering how appropriate the misty eyed, evocative language would sound to these guys with the dishrags.
    I can’t help but think they’d giggle a bit, esp. if no one was looking….
    Which isn’t to say that this isn’t a worthy campaign.
    Yay immigrants! Stay free and under the state’s radar!

  2. Technically, the term ger refers to someone who is not a permanent resident of the place where s/he currently resides and for whatever reason also can’t go back to his/her place of origin. The ger is distinguished for his/her inability to own land (equated, more or less, with permanent residence). The Torah describes the Jewish people as having been gerim in Egypt (where they never intended to stay); Moses describes himself as having been a ger (in Midian and/or Egypt); and the biblical gerim who reside among the Jews are not able to convert (as conversion does not yet exist in biblical times), may not own land, and are obligated for negative but not positive mitzvot (that is–they can’t violate Shabbat, but don’t take part in the Passover sacrifice, for instance). Their landless and neither here-nor-there status makes these gerim vulnerable.
    Later, for various interesting but lengthy historical reasons, “ger” comes to mean “convert.” But that’s another story, probably best dealt with by Shaye Cohen in “The Beginnings of Jewishness”

  3. I can’t read what the poster says, even when I zoom in on it. Can you post that, or tell me how to get a better view? Thanks.

  4. >“During this period of vicious anti-immigrant rhetoric and raids, too often immigrants are viewed with suspicion rather than treated like guests to be honored.”
    Do people who sneak across the border and enter the country illegally for the purpose of earning cash really deserve to be treated like “honored guests”? Is there something morally wrong with having immigration laws and entry requirements?

  5. Eric- Yes, there are situations in which it is unethical to apply a discriminatory and hypocritical immigration policy.
    Among all the reaons I could give, consider the fact that were it not for these immigrants it’s entirely possible that no one would be cooking your restaurant food (whether in kosher or nonkosher places), washing your dishes, picking your fruits and vegetables, slaughtering your kosher meat, cleaning your hotel room, or building your home and office. Do I believe that we should respect and support hard working people who labor for us in order to survive and better their lives, the way my grandparents and great-grandparents did? Yes.

  6. Ah, don’t you just love Jews who hate Israel, attack the frum (I’m generalizing here about the posted organizations), but somehow love illegal aliens (whoops, I guess the preferred term is “immigrant”). Dude, get it through your head – every country has the right to decide who can enter that country – and illegals who enter our country in violation of our laws are criminals – we owe them nothing but decent treatment as we escort them back to their home country.
    Do these illegals help at all – of course, but they cause huge problems – disproportionately filling our prisons, committing violent crimes of rape and murder, and disproportionately using our social services.
    If we want more legal immigrants, vote for legislators who will increase the immigration numbers – that’s what democracies are all about – don’t reward those who break our laws.

  7. Incorrect- you are incorrect. Illegal immigrants do not disproportionately fill our prisons; African-American men do. Furthermore, national studies based on census data have shown that immigrant men have an incarceration rate several times lower than native-born citizens in every ethnic group examined. And most undocumented immigrants with whom I’m familiar go to great lengths to avoid reliance on social services for fear of being deported.
    I’m disappointed to see such hatred, and libel, in your posts (though it almost makes me giggle to see you write that USCJ, JCPA, etc. “hate Israel”). Please remember that real human beings, and real suffering, are at the heart of this debate.
    (Also, what exactly do you make of Aliyah Bet? Was that a travesty too?)

  8. WADR, I think Eric’s question stands. It was, “Do people who sneak across the border and enter the country illegally for the purpose of earning cash really deserve to be treated like ‘honored guests’?”

  9. It is fair, as Eric says, to have an immigration policy and to enforce it. The problem is that we currently do not have a reasonable and enforceable immigration policy–people come here illegally because there is virtually NO way to come legally. That is–there are essentially no visas available for people without specialized job skills (like computer programmers, rabbis, college professors–and it’s even hard for these folks), and no “lottery” visas available for people from the countries from which most people want to come. Therefore, if you’re a farmer in southern Mexico who would very much like to come to the US without breaking the law, you have no chance of getting a visa, or at least not within a decade. The waiting period to bring in members of one’s family is even 7 to more than 20 years, depending what country one’s from and how close the relation is. If we made available some number of visas that more or less corresponded to the number of jobs available, then we would drastically decrease illegal immigration and would have what to enforce.
    While I’m at it, I’ll debunk the myth that all of our families came here legally–the visa system as we know it didn’t exist until 1924. Before then, almost anyone who didn’t have TB or a criminal record could come easily. The implementation, in 1924, of a visa system based on country of origin had, of course, dire consequences for the Jewish community.

  10. Rabbi Jacobs,
    I understand the Jewish communal resentment over immigration being closed in 1924. However, there is a feeling that our empathy for immigrants is exaggerated, and that our motivation is not really love of immigrants solely, but rather, a desire to divide and conquer those who both closed the doors, but also, in our eyes (I would say unfairly) are of the same cloth as those who reduced our numbers greatly in Europe.
    Clearly, those coming here from Mexico are not fleeing nazis. So the situation is hardly analogous.
    Additionally, our whole narrative that “we are a nation of immigrants” is to some degree a Jewish (and to a lesser degree, Irish) fiction. There is a reason JFK’s essay was published by the ADL (and a reason it is being republished by the ADL).
    Let’s be honest — The 17th century Europeans who came here were hardly immigrants — they were settlers. And the slaves that were brought were not exactly immigrants either.
    Immigration is only part of the U.S. story, as important as it may be to us. Additionally, open immigration to all people is only a post-1965 phenomenon. And this was driven in large part by the Jewish community acting our of fear of what an overwhelmingly white majority could (and in Europe, did) do to us.
    We need to be honest about what is driving us. Our maysehs have taken on a life of their own.

  11. Isn’t there a contradiction between the “jewish” support for fair treatment of laborers (wages and stuff) and “jewish” support for illegal immigration? Wouldn’t the importation of millions of low skilled workers drive down wages for the workers who are already in the US? Like say the african americans who fill our prisons as Rooftopper Rav says.

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