The 5 Towns Jewish Times

Letters to the Editor: Building a Political Wall

Salvadoran migrant Epigmenio Centeno holds the hand of his three-year old son Steven Atonay after being deported from the U.S. to Mexico. Photo: Reuters / Jose Luis Gonzalez.

Sound Familiar?

Dear Editor,

Jake Novak defends the Trump administration’s approach (although, of course, that approach is ever-changing!) to the refugee crisis on our southern border (“Building A Political Wall Around The Torah,” June 22).

letters to the editor

Novak challenges the reader with a series of questions. I paraphrase some of these: Have you ever visited a border town in Texas? Did you know that many adults bringing children over the border are not parents but smugglers? Is your job endangered by cheap immigrant labor? Do you know anyone who has been adversely affected by illegal immigration? Have you studied the effects of such immigration for at least 10 years? If not, Novak says, one should leave the moralizing to someone else. He reserves particular ire for rabbis who have spoken in defense of the migrants; clergy, argues Novak, should stick to religion and stay out of politics.

I direct readers to similar sentiments. To wit: “We cannot care for our own, to say nothing of importing more to care for.” Then there is: “These foreigners cannot be assimilated … and will constitute a threat to our American civilization.” Finally, there is the worry that if the U.S. takes in refugees, they might be forced by their countries of origin to conspire against America, with the threat that if they don’t, “Your old father and mother will be taken out and shot.”

The above quotes were not said about the present matter (although they just as well could have been). Rather, they are sentiments that were expressed during that desperate time when German Jews tried to acquire refugee status in the United States. In the face of often scathing opposition to a perceived onslaught of foreigners, the U.S. enforced an onerous quota system to keep our brethren out.

I quote from a German Historical Institute report: “Certain groups — including government officials — projected onto German Jews their fears of intrusion by foreign and ostensibly dangerous elements.” This paraphrased the fears of Felix Guggenheim, a German Jewish American who worried that some would “agitate against us, not as Jews, for a change, but as enemy aliens.” Translation: Jews coming from Germany might be accompanied by Nazi infiltrators. Sound familiar? We have heard the same line from the president and his allies regarding the current refugee influx.

I am not comparing the situation in Nazi Germany to the situation in Mexico and Latin America. However, to the asylum-seeker who genuinely fears violence or death, the practical difference is mostly moot. When faced with a mortal threat, the source and ideology of that threat are pretty much irrelevant.

The idea that a long-term study must be undertaken before we accept refugees is particularly repugnant. The U.S. and most other nations did the same with the Jews of Europe. Thirty-two countries used the infamous Evian Conference to offer a veneer of concern while taking no action at all. (The one exception was the Dominican Republic.) The world fiddled as Jews were about to burn.

Of all people, Jews must take a special interest in the plight of the men, women, and children who are seeking asylum in our special country. And, contra Novak, our rabbis have an absolute obligation to address our moral imperatives. We must be horrified by the splitting of families, and we must influence our government to act in a humane fashion towards these unfortunates. Our faith and history demand no less.

Avi Goldstein

Don’t Fall Into The Trap

Dear Editor,

With great wisdom and sensitivity, the article by Jake Novak (“Building a Political Wall Around the Torah,” June 22) is written with clarity, understanding, and knowledge of Jewish history and Jewish events. His suggested methodology can prevent our Jewish organizations and leaders from falling into the trap of imitating unverified comments of others as representing “the Jewish viewpoint.”

Ann Greenfield