A Year Ago Today

February 02, 2018
By Avi Rose

One year ago today, in the wake of the president’s executive order suspending the U.S. refugee resettlement program and barring all travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, we at JFCS East Bay joined an ACLU lawsuit challenging what quickly became known as the “travel ban” or “Muslim ban.” We were proud to join the large number of individuals and institutions standing up for the Jewish mandate to welcome the stranger, as well as the American ideal of being a nation of immigrants striving to build new lives with freedom, safety, and opportunity.

This past year has repeatedly required us to stand up for these principles. We’ve stood with refugees as they’ve weathered a tremendous amount of fear and uncertainty, on top of all the usual daunting challenges of coming to an entirely new country. We’ve stood up for accurate information about refugees and the rigorous vetting process they undergo before their arrival. And fortunately, we’ve stood together with our passionate and generous East Bay community, with hundreds of people coming forward to join us in welcoming our new refugee neighbors.

Meanwhile, the global refugee crisis continues unabated, with more people displaced from their homes than at any time since the end of World War II. Sadly, our own country has forfeited its leadership role in the humanitarian effort that is required to address this huge challenge. Many refugees have seen their paths blocked and hopes extinguished, though if our agency and others hadn’t put our shoulders to the gates to keep them open, it would have been even worse. We will continue.

Now there are new challenges. Administration policies have caused the number of refugee arrivals to plummet. The principle of family reunification is under attack, now labeled by some with the offensive term “chain migration.” Attempts to demonize all immigrants have been relentless and disheartening.

We don’t know what will be required of us—all of us—in the year to come. But we do know that we’ll continue to stand up, determined to see us all through to a better, more welcoming time that reflects the best of who we are, as Jews and as Americans. May that turning come soon.