Virtual Talmud

Virtual Talmud


The Stranger in our Midst

In our hearts, Jews are immigrants. The very name “Hebrews,” Ivri’im, comes from the word ‘to cross over’; Hebrews are boundary crossers.

Our founding story portrays us as refugees arriving to our land, and Judaism itself is a religion forged in exile and the experience of powerlessness, where stock was placed in prayer, study, and building just societies rather than in wealth, arms, or might. And so the Torah tells us: “You shall not oppress the stranger; you know the heart of the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 23:9) Especially at this time of the year, when we prepare for Passover, we remember what it means to be powerless and unloved in a land not our own.

All of this should lead us to support and promote legal immigration to this country. But what can it teach us about those who enter the country illegally in search of a living wage or a better life?

I think the key word in our verse is “oppress.” We are not called on to welcome those who cross into this country illegally with open arms, but neither are we allowed to place crushing burdens on them in order to criminalize their presence and make their lives more difficult as the bill the House of Representatives passed in December does.

Unfortunately, many of the measures currently being proposed in Washington and statehouses across the country are mere posturing that address neither the underlying causes of the flow of illegal migrants across the border nor the unspeakable conditions immigrants find once here.

Illegal immigrants do not have an easy life; and helping to move them slowly on the path toward citizenship as the Senate bill proposes will not change this is in the short term. That bill is not an amnesty that rewards those who broke the rules; it is a way to bring common sense and even a measure of decency to this large underclass of workers on whom our economy relies.

Should we open our borders indiscriminately? Absolutely not–it’s important to give priority to those who play by the rules and also to keep control over our border for security.

Should we reward those who cross illegally? No–but the Senate bill, with its penalties for illegal immigrants and requirement that they pay back taxes before heading down the path toward citizenship is hardly that. Instead, we can deal humanely with a class of workers whose plight is created in part by globalization, our existing immigration policies, and our insatiable demand for cheap goods and services. In other words, we can heed the Jewish experience of exile and the injunction not to oppress. Then we will live up to the words of our tradition: “Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Prov. 31:9)



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Ellis

posted March 30, 2006 at 5:44 pm


Thanks again Beliefnet for providing 3 different Marxist perspectives, but how wearying to have to put up with lip service toward a “pluralism” that permits reactionary views to represent themselves as not proscribed by (our glorious Marxist)Jewish tradition. “There is no Jewish position on immigration.”? Good grief. What’s next: there is no Jewish position on the Bush tax cuts. This is why we need a Maoist or Trotskyist rabbi on the blog to keep these wishy-washy backsliders in line.



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Jonathan

posted March 30, 2006 at 7:31 pm


Ellis (03/30/06), Ummm… I take it your post was to be sarcastic. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out what you mean. I don’t see that the pro-immigration position is Marxist. Mobility of labor in response to wages (without regard to political command and control) is a feature of free-market capitalism.



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Jude

posted March 31, 2006 at 2:17 am


What does the senate bill have to do with jewish dietary laws? Keeping Kosher is about seperating ourselves unto God It’s a physical as well as a spiritual practice.



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Myra

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:08 pm


Might we remember that the USA was founded by immigrants who took over the native peoples and their land for their own purposes. The first Jews landed in Newport RI in 1625 as merchant immigrants from Portugal. How can we, as an immigrant nation, not treat other immigrants with compassion? As to “kashrut”, these laws are not just for dietary issues but determine what is ‘acceptable’ and what is ‘unacceptable’. To treat other immigrants without compassion is unacceptable. Treating immigrants with compassion has nothing to do with Marxism or any other political philosophy – it is the right thing to do.



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Bill

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:38 pm


American workers complain thier wages have been cut by 2/3 because of illegals willing to work for less than min wage. So, when your grandchildren have to come and live with you because they cant pay the rent or a mortgage who do you blame? Go check out Weinersnitzle resturants in san diego and you will see illegals openly working for less than the calif min wage. Bill



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Randy Baca Hensel

posted March 31, 2006 at 5:26 pm


Actually, the FIRST Jews who entered what is now the USA were Sephardim fleeing the Inquisition, including crew members on Columbus’ first voyage: some settled in Monterey and other cities and towns in Mexico, but many others (crypto-Jews) kept moving north–into the unsettled and dangerous (to Europeans) “frontera”, which is now New Mexico, Southern Colorado and Northern Arizona. My ancestors were part of this forced migration (forced, since they wanted to LIVE!). We DID displace the native peoples–and occasionally fought them to the death–but always found a way to survive and practice our faith, openly or secretly. We beat the “Pilgrims” by at least a hundred years. We Jew have ALWAYS been “strangers in a strange land”–until the relatively recent establishment of the State of Israel. Of ALL Adonai’s people, WE should have compassion and understanding (whatever our political or philosophical views on current immigration problems) for the INDIVIDUAL human beings seeking to LIVE…and provide a better life for their families. To the best of my knowledge, no “Mexican” immigrant–legal or no–has done anything more dreadful than pick the lettuce and other greens we will eat on Pesach.



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Ellis

posted March 31, 2006 at 5:36 pm


Jonathan, I think you’re more dinsingenuous than confused. Rather than confusing matters, let’s give credit where credit is due. Progressive people like our diverse troika of rabbis are NOT supporting free market capitalism when they support Progressive immigration policy. That is admirably clear from their blogs. They are supporting it for Progressive reasons just like the good folks here: http://www.pww.org/ It is certainly true that arch-capitalists like the editorial board of the Wall St. Journal advocate liberalized immigration on the basis you cite, but they also favor elimination of the minimum wage, weakened unions, and repeal of most social benefits for immigrant and native-born alike. I feel safe in assuming that unapologetic Progressives like the VT troika would join other Progressives in taking the opposite positions on all these issues to head off the capitalistic nightmare you invoked. I suspect — notwithstanding your feigned fondness for free-market ideals — you might too.



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Bob Wickizer

posted March 31, 2006 at 5:45 pm


I would like to shift the debate about “illegal immigrants” to other illegal things that cross our borders. Why do some groups of people get so upset over undocumented aliens while we happily go to the local big box store and purchase low cost goods from countries that if their manufacturing plants were located in the United States would violate the Clean Air act, the Clean Water Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, OSHA, financial accounting standards, Sarbanes-Oxley, the Minimum Wage Act and countless other Federal and state laws. It seems to me that low cost imported goods are far more “illegal” and cause far more economic damage in the US and Europe than the people coming across our borders highly motivated to create a better life for themselves. If you want to call undocumented aliens “illegal immigrants” then you should probably go to all the car dealerships and big box discount stores and refer to all of their products as “illegal goods.” You can’t have it both ways. The Reverend Bob Wickizer St. Alban’s Episcopal Church Glen Burnie MD



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Ellis

posted March 31, 2006 at 6:07 pm


Myra: Let’s be careful not to conciliate the reactionary racists by sugarcoating our Progressive objectives. “Treating people with compassion” may be too vague and minimalist a formulation to carry ambitions as weighty as those must of us Progressives harbor. Don’t you think progressives should be forthright in attacking reactionary ideological notions like “sovereignty” and “rule of law” and “leaders and elites not supporting measures that undercut the livelihoods of less prosperous citizens” — and the sinister reactionaries who propagate them? Otherwise, people who may not have initially realized that we’re talking about making 12 million Undocumented people citizens, they might feel that we had been disingenuous saying all we stood for was “compassionate treatment.” Right? And thanks to Randy for pointing out that no Progressive believes immigrants to be capable of crimes (other than offenses only reactionaries define as “criminal,” entering the country illegally and using fraudulent documents to work or receive benefits.) You are so right, Randy, and so illustrative of why making common cause with fellow Progresives whose bag is more Marxism than Judaism is so clearly nothing to be embarassed about. Jewish progressives are as similar as can be to Marxist progressives in our splendid capacity to be unswayed by reactionary so-called “evidence” that might call our Progressive premises into question. For Randy to spout off so confidently that no immigrant has ever committed any crime, you just know he is too dedicated to Progress to have his faith in the inherent innocence of people in Progressive groups like the undocumented shaken by such sinister tripe as this: http://www.city-journal.org/html/14_1_the_illegal_alien.html or this: http://www.hispanic5.com/salvadorans_branded_in_a_world_of_gang_warfare.htm or this: http://www.jewishworldreview.com/michelle/malkin102502.asp So here’s a discussion question for fellow Progressives: When some reactionary tries to introduce reactionary so-called “evidence” in opposition to Progressive policies and racistly contradicts what we know — that not all members of Progressive groups are inherently without culpability — is it sufficient to call them reactionaries or should we go all the way and call them racist bigots too?



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ellis

posted March 31, 2006 at 6:15 pm


:o( Imagine my embarassment! I said “not all members of Progressive groups are inherently without culpability” when I meant to say “ALL MEMBERS OF PROGRESSIVE GROUPS ARE INHERENTLY WITHOUT CULPABILITY”! Sorry, Progressive friends and comrades!



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Anya Gonzalez

posted March 31, 2006 at 6:39 pm


Undocummented immigration is something that we do not want but is occuring, and many times with the risk of death. I do not support ‘illegal immigration’, but we have to put ourselves in their shoes: What would you do if you life is miserable, you have no food nor better future for your children, and the wages of two jobs doesn’t add up? Let’s remember that Jakov and his family came in Mitzraim [Egypt] being people without a land, suffering from the drought and a minority. Joseph had to endure years of heavy servitude and prison until God rewarded him. For this reason H-shem established in kashrut to help “the needy and the stranger in your land”. We should not think of how others will view me, or even what our political affiliations are; we should ask ourselves: Am I loving my neighbor and treating him as H-shem asked me to?



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Lab

posted March 31, 2006 at 7:26 pm


We are all compassionate and caring, yet what happens to our schools when over half the LA County students are Hispanic? What happens to our hospitals when their emergency rooms are over run with poor who cannot pay for the services rendered. When over 25% of our prisons are filled with Hispanic criminals, many who have committed violent crimes. The cost to our economy and our quality of life has to be weighed with the available options. At what point does caring about foreigners mean we have to reduce our quality of life and reduce our natural resources? Is there a limit to how many needy people we can accommodate or should we accommodate the millions who would benefit from coming here?



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Jonathan

posted March 31, 2006 at 9:01 pm


Ellis, Actually, I am one of those pesky libertarians; I am happy to make common cause with progressives on issues like immigration. As far as Jewish law, there is very little that it says about immigration quotas. But it seems clear that strangers mixed pretty freely with Jews in ancient Israel; hence the command “there shall be one law for you and the stranger that soujourneth with you” (see Numbers 15:13-16). The Torah seems to recognize that law-abiding or otherwise “friendly” strangers might come and go at will. What is YOUR position? So far I have just seen you mock the position of others.



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Denise

posted March 31, 2006 at 11:02 pm


It is a state of the world that causes me to think we are all doing things wrong to begin with. I do believe G-d teaches through many avenues. I also believe He commands to Suffer the Children and Care for the widows. In this land we call great we have forced ouselves by division to practice discrimination, and divided by class distinctions, by faiths and denominations and so on. I tend to beleive, We who beleive are one in spirit no matter the labels or divisions we apply in logic. When anyone comes to my door, I trust the Spirit to open or close the opportunity to teach or to learn. For I practice the principal that in ever meeting of two souls we are in fact the teacher or the student. We are all of the family of our creator and thus, we in Spirit do recognize the fool/ swine who comes to kill steal or destroy that wich Father has provided in His wisedom. And to judge another soul is a station I cannot possition myself for. I am of the practice of forgiveness. That is not to say, I would not hold accountable for retrobution to those that have been wronged- be it in another county or not, I do feel this is our place as stewards in the body. But to be indifferent to those who truly have suffered and run from the evil of their home to find another place for refuge is not to be taken for granted. We must as a nation protect ourselves, but we must as a nation stand upon our own claims to be a free nation and to protect and defend the oppressed. The world is going to change as it is proficide, People are panicied by the troubles they feel in their spirits, but cannot necessarily understand so they run. Are these the people who we are standing in judgement of? The people who have been comming here to work to send money home I think it is wrong of us to force them into menial laobr, if they are workers of a trade or have others skill that can be utilized to take back to their homes to build their own society. We use work permits let them pay a fair tax, and let them qaulify for free education with the commitment to prove they are going to share their gifts at home within their own communities. Some of the people we are seeing come to our borders are not given tools in there own environment to change their own circumstances. some governments oppress people more by keeping them ignorant. Money is not power education is. If we have been loosing our corperations and industries to Mexico, should we not find out why these people still feel they need to come here to work? My question is what have the companies and corporations who have gone to other countries done in those countries to benefit their new communities and are we reponsable in part for allowing still another oppressive force upon already oppressed people for the profits someone is making using people?



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Denise

posted March 31, 2006 at 11:33 pm


The freedom to live and practice what you believe should never become a political issue. I am Native American having little education about Jewish laws I have always had a great respect and love for the teachings. I am becoming involved in this conversation for the first time, and for the purpose of my own education. I am considered a little off by many but I walk and Talk of what I have learned to be as my Spirit leads. Forgive me if I am ignorant of the whole as I said I am LEARNING. I do wish never to offend, only to understaand what is being translated in conversations such as this one. I also know that the word teaches we must follow the laws of the land, But if the laws are not for the people what can we do to protect ouselves for the generations to come, and can we not agree that life is more precious than anything this world has to offer?



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Joita Benavidez

posted April 1, 2006 at 12:10 am


Excuse me folks. New Mexico, California, Arizona, Texas, Nevada etc., were territories of New Spain. The Mexican Revolution brought forth a new country: Mexico. When the United States saw the riches, they “occupied” the territories and made them legally theirs. The “illegal immigrants are just making their way home now. I don’t like it any more than anybody else, but let’s be fair and balanced here.



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Myra

posted April 1, 2006 at 3:21 pm


Bob Wickizer- Thank you for your confirmation and support. We can’t have it both ways. Ellis, Thank you for responding. I find your comments rambling and jargon-filled. Can you state in simple sentences your own position?



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Lena

posted April 1, 2006 at 3:56 pm


Let me pose this question to you. Let’s replace the nation “USA” with the nation “ISRAEL” and then replace the name “undocumented immigrants” with “non-permitted Palestinians”. Do the same rules then apply? Or, does it only apply when you can justify it with some kind of twisted nonsensical revisionist history? The Jewish Immigrants that came to Newport, RI in 1625 came with the permission of the Queen of England. They had to pay the British government a large % of their incomes in order to “Have the Right to Stay”. They were not provided healthcare, medicines, food, foodstamps, education, or any kind of sustenance, either. They came to fend for themselves and pay their own way. They were NOT “immigrants” to the USA, either. They were COLONISTS FOR their respective European Nations. And, the Mexicans that are crying fowl and claiming that LA and the entire SOUTHWEST and part of the NORTHWEST, did not live there either. The various American Indian TRIBES lived there and owned the land as much as the Tribes considered “ownership” of Land. They MIGHT have a right to claim this is their land but the Mexican Protestors DO NOT! As for “making them criminals”, they ARE ALREADY Criminals. Breaking ANY LAW makes you a “criminal” and they have “broken the laws that govern entering this country”. That alone makes them criminals. I fear in the root of my heart that if we allow this President and this Senate to continue to push this issue in the direction of Amnesty (no matter what they call it), the next step will be for the U.N. and for the Arab Nations to DEMAND that Israel HAS NO RIGHT TO KEEP OUT PALESTINIANS based on the U.S. LAW! Think about those consequences before you so freely accept the idea that this is just a “nice guy” ploy.



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Cheryl

posted April 1, 2006 at 4:17 pm


To the Reverend: You refer to the people pouring across our borders as coming here and being highly motivated to create a better life for themselves. I ask, why can’t they begin their ‘better life’ by following the laws?? I don’t object to them coming here. I do object to them coming here without following the laws. The laws are set in place to protect me and the other citizens of the United States! As for the ‘illegal goods’ you refer to, products that are produced in countries that do not have environmental protection laws, etc., there are people who boycott those goods. I think that the huge numbers of immigrants that are coming into our country illegally, and the porous borders that allow this, is a much more immediate danger!



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Cheryl

posted April 1, 2006 at 4:30 pm


To Joita: You write that the U.S. “occupied” these territories and made them legally of the United States. Point made. Therefore, when Mexicans come here without following the protocol set up by the U.S., they are not “coming home”, as you write. They are coming here illegally.



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Son of Thor

posted April 1, 2006 at 6:23 pm


“Immigration Bill Draws Jewish Support” http://www.forward.com/articles/7589 Quote: “As the Senate struggled this week to hammer out legislation on the contentious issue of immigration reform, Jewish groups were in boardrooms and on the streets advocating for the most liberal approaches to the issue.” “Sokatch called immigrants’ rights “a major focus of our organizing,” saying: “We’re arguing that, like economic justice, this is a profoundly Jewish issue. Our soul hinges on this debate. It’s the issue of what kind of country we want to be and who we are as an American people.” Gideon Aronoff, the new president and CEO of HIAS, said that while “the rallies have been very important and have contributed to highlighting support on this issue, inside group pressure from a broad spectrum of Jewish groups is a significant player in a game where you need to turn only a small number of Republican senators.”” Thanks to Jewish voices for selling out America while they create their own nation in which non Jews have no rights at all.



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Yoella

posted April 2, 2006 at 12:46 am


I find your article interesting…We are called to follow the law, like it or not! – I was not born in this country – am LEGAL though …. I have a “green” card – to maintain it, I have to renew it and … I need to pay a fee in order to do so – How many illegal people are here and robbed this country? – If I do not renew my visa, it means they will call me and deport me! why, because I am legal and they know where I am! If one wants to live somewhere, he/she needs to go through the front door …. legally – Businesses have also been against the law for hiring illegal immigrants. When I applied for a job, or any benefits etc … I am asked if I am a citizen! – and of course, need to show my green card – they make a copy for their file …. Can people who stay in a country illegally be trusted? if you steal something small, you can steal big !!!!!



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Carol Beck

posted April 2, 2006 at 6:02 am


You sure don’t speak for me. You have got to be kidding. We waited in line, assimilated, got no help at all, learned the language, got educated & contributed to this county, which became our country. We came here to make it so. Don’t give me the pantywaste double talk applying honorable semantics to those who come here to get what they can, not raise themselves up but pull the rest of us down, avoid contributing financially & otherwise then send whats left over back to their country, using our, bend over backwards to be politically correct,laws. They have the audacity to waive their flags & spit on mine. Give me a break. Keep pushing us away, havent you learned anything from the past???



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George

posted April 2, 2006 at 6:35 am


I totally diagree with you position and interpretation of the Senate Bill. The Senate bill is a back door amnesty while untold thousand wait on line doing it legally, paying the fees, filing forms, etc. My parents did it that way as did all other ehnic groups. I am in favor of legal immigration. To support this bill and and watch our flag being hung upside down is a disgrace. They are not the backbone of our economy, Americans will do the jobs for a decent and fair wage. Visit In-n-Out hamburger restaurants and see what I mean. Many if not all college and HS students doing the jobs Americans don’t want. Try paying my tax burden in California to support to illegal migrations and after walking in my shoes make a comment. I enjoy your web site.



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vonWahrenberger

posted April 2, 2006 at 6:43 pm


Another word for illegal immigrants are invaders. They’re not coming here to work they’re invading us. This isn’t a nation of immigrants, since most people were born here. If you’re not born here, you’re not comming home like some marxists…oh sorry ‘progressives’ say. They take jobs away from Americans and lower everyones standard of living. As far as it being stolen from the indians…again, wrong answer it was won. Get patriotic and come to the aid of your country instead of selling it out.



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Ram J

posted April 3, 2006 at 5:01 am


i strongly agree with stronger borders after 911 especially since the whole Western Hemisphere is on the eyes of Iran and other terrorist states now that Iran have already successfully tested a missile that they claim that radars cannot trace it and even if it is tracked it is too fast; which not only threatens Isreal and the US but also the other Christian Nations on the Western Block that Iran considers the Rouge and Infidal nations according to the Koran. its time that we wake up and stop this threat of Iran that continues it nuclear programme and its intensions to wipe out all Infidals from the face of the earth and learn what Hitler did to the Jews during the Second World War.



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Alan

posted April 4, 2006 at 6:51 am


It would seem that the Rabbi thinks that requiring the illegal immigrant to abidy by our law is a “crushing” imposition on the illegal. The story of Ruth seems to imply that the immigrant should adopt the ways of the land to which she ( or he ) immigrates. Former Governor Lamm ( Colorado ) suggests that the problem is more one of assimilation rather than immigration. I agree.



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ellis

posted April 5, 2006 at 7:18 pm


Meanwhile, the Democrats in the U.S. Senate are holding up work on the bill most of them supposedly favor because they don’t want to have to vote on an amendment. The amendment would preclude criminal aliens from taking their path to citizenship. http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20060404-105601-5010r.htm All sarcasm aside, will the VT 3 now offer some clarification as to whether their “As Jews, we know what it is like to be strangers” rubric for determining how secular law should address border control and citizenship policy includes “knowing what it is like to be” criminal “strangers”?



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anon

posted April 7, 2006 at 5:24 pm


How many of the people getting up on their moral high horse about undocumented immigrants being “lawbreakers” and “criminals” have never gotten a speeding ticket or a parking ticket? Because guess what: being in the US without papers is a CIVIL and not a CRIMINAL violation. And all the talk about previous generations of immigrants suffering and not getting any help from the government, and now immigrants have it so easy… baloney! Tamanny Hall in New York was all about getting immigrants housing and jobs (and signing them up as loyal Democrats) the minute they stepped off the boat. And even if people did have to suffer and be miserable, why exactly is that such a desirable thing? I think our immigration policy can be based on a more compassionate notion than “misery loves company.”



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