Virtual Talmud

Virtual Talmud

Immigration Reform and the Justice of Being a Refugee

Where should we stand on immigration reform?

If not for the closed-door policies and quotas held by America and other countries barring Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe, the Holocaust would not have claimed its millions of victims. As Jews, we understand that part of our job is to protect the weak and persecuted, which sometimes means providing save haven and refuge. That is why Israel has a history of welcoming innocent refugees, whether the Cambodian boat people, the Christian Lebanese, or such breakaway sects from Islam as the Bahai and Ahmayeds, all of whom have found safety from persecution within Israel’s borders.

Being a safe haven does not preclude being concerned about security. Indeed, successful reform should not only include ways to tighten the process for vetting immigrants to make sure that potential terrorists do not enter the country but should also create the conditions that would close down our porous borders through fair and reasonable visiting worker and political refugee options.


However, America’s history of xenophobia ill serves us here. It is more than the fact that we are a nation of immigrants, because one person’s immigrant is another person’s stranger.

As Jews, we know what it is like to be strangers. Our whole religion is built upon this essential ethical leitmotif: Love the stranger, for you were strangers in the Land of Egypt. We are to make sure the stranger is treated fairly, because we know what it is like not to be. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, which is why more synagogues should be joining other faith-based organizations to offer food and other aid to the illegal immigrants we see suffering within our midst.

But there is another issue of justice here as well: the fact that agriculture, travel, and other significant businesses build their profits on substandard salaries that could not reasonably support America’s working poor and therefore attract illegal immigrants who seek to escape the squalor of even worse poverty across the border. Reforms to allow visiting workers may be reasonable, but they will not be just unless they also address minimum standards for pay and fair treatment of the strangers coming to us with dreams for a better life for themselves and their children–dreams similar in some ways to those shared by our own parents, grandparents, and great grandparents who came to these same shores.

Comments read comments(7)
post a comment

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:00 pm

The majority of American property owners object mostly to the way in which immigrants (Hispanic primarily) fail to care for their homes, yards and surroundings which ultimately bring property values down. They must be educated in ways to blend into neighborhoods and begin to take pride in their communities. To park utility trucks and several cars on lawns, throw trash on lawns and pile broken appliances and furniture on back porches or in some cases, front lawns is unacceptable!

report abuse


posted March 31, 2006 at 4:40 pm

So invite them to go to Isreal. GOt any empty ships? Bill

report abuse


posted March 31, 2006 at 11:23 pm

There are was to inter this country. How they are doing it is wrong. They recieve every service the U.S. Medical services.Food stamps all subsidizing everything FREE.THERE childern free education,free lunch we have to hair people in the school system to meet there needs because of the langue barrier.College students had a difficult time finding summer jobs to help with there school expenses. THEY ARE TAKING my tax money to give to these people and i have to work 2 jobs to give my children an education pay for there medical need take care of my spouse who is disabled and provided for their need as well and can get no assisantance because I EARN TO MUCH 26,000.00 a year thus a second job is mecessary. you talk about THESE PEOPLEBEING opressed MANY OF THE CITIZENS OF THE U.S. ARE OPRESSED and angery WITH THE THE U.S. IS TURNING IT’S BACK ON THE WORKES OF THIS COUNTRY IN FAVOR OF LAW BREAKERS

report abuse

Rabbi Nason Goldstein

posted April 3, 2006 at 12:18 am

It is not necessarily the Jewish thing to support illegal immigration. Self defense and the protection of one s home and country are Jewish virtues It is a mistake to compare the inflow of illegals from Mexico with Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. The migrants invading the US are not coming because they are threatened by genocide they are mostly economic migrants. The Untied States is no longer an empty country in need of large amounts of unskilled labor. The railroads have been built and the West has been settled. In short the United States cannot absorb all those who want to live here. Many of our cities suffer from overpopulation crowded streets, growing pollution, destruction of habitat–all suggest that the United States is not coping with its current population; let a lone with the illegals. The influx of illegals has depressed the wages of lower skilled Americans. They have strained scarce resources for health, welfare and education. In the case of education, they have burden the public schools with the task of educating non-English speakers and diminished resources to educate underprivileged citizens. There is a Talmudic principle that the poor of one s own locality take precedence over the poor of other localities. Rabbi Nason Goldstein

report abuse

Josie Moses Dover

posted April 3, 2006 at 6:17 am

Let us remember our ancester that came to new lands for better oppertunity. Let us pray for all of us in this Land of the Free and show compashion for all.

report abuse


posted April 4, 2006 at 7:00 am

The Rabbi is correct on only one point. Had the USA opened it’s gates to the Jewish Population of Europe prior to 1939 much of the Holocost could have been prevented. But, in the American experience, those who emmigrated to the United States were those who were facing persecution or those who were sponsored by an American. We can not support the entire world’s population of underclass citizens. An infinite supply of labor means an infinitely small wage – econ 101. Supply and demand demands that we allow only those who can benefit our society to enter.

report abuse


posted April 10, 2006 at 4:44 pm

Let me see if I understand the first person’s comment correctly; you are willing to judge an entire group of people on how some people treat their property? My uncle lives in an almost entirely hispanic neighborhood and his house has the most crap in the yard! While we’re making assertions, let’s just call all Jews cheap and all athletes stupid. Let’s just assume every stereotype in exsistence applies to every minority group. That’s disgusting.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

The Task Is Never Finished
It has been heartwarming to read the warm responses to Rabbi Waxman's post asking Beliefnet to reconsider its decision to cancel Virtual Talmud. Virtual Talmud offered an alternative model for internet communications: civil discourse pursued in ...

posted 12:31:46pm Apr. 03, 2008 | read full post »

Some Parting Reflections
Well, loyal readers, all good things must come to an end and we’ve been informed that this particular experiment in blogging as a forum for creating wide-ranging discussion on topics of interest to contemporary Jews has run its course. Maybe ...

posted 1:00:29pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

Obama's Lesson and The Jewish Community
There are few times in this blog’s history when I have felt that Rabbi Grossman was one hundred percent correct in her criticisms of my ideas. However, a few weeks ago she called me out for citing a few crack websites on Barak Obama’s ...

posted 12:09:08pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

The Future of Race Relations
As a post-baby boomer, it is interesting to me to see how much of today’s conversation about racial relations is still rooted in the 1960s experience and rhetoric of the civil rights struggle, and the disenchantment that followed. Many in the ...

posted 4:04:41pm Mar. 25, 2008 | read full post »

Wright and Wrong of Race and Jews
Years ago, as a rabbinical student, I was one of a group of rabbinical students who visited an African American seminary in Atlanta. My fellow rabbinical students and I expected an uplifting weekend of interfaith sharing like we had experienced ...

posted 12:50:11pm Mar. 24, 2008 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.