Families Belong Together

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Families Belong Together

Rabbi Andy Koren / July 5, 2018

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Rabbi Andy Koren

Editor’s Note: The following remarks were delivered during a Families Belong Together rally on Saturday, June 30 at LeBauer Park in Greensboro.

Raise your hand if you yourself are an immigrant or if you ever had immigrants in your family. This is not just your story. This is our story, the story of America.

The Jewish story is filled with those who sought refuge and needed to cross borders. Don’t believe me? Ask Adam and Eve; ask Noah; ask Abraham and Sarah; ask Jacob or any of his family; ask an entire generation that left Egypt and wandered – TOGETHER – through the desert; ask Joshua, Caleb and the generation that crossed into the promised Land; ask the exiles who sang by the rivers of Babylon; ask any generation since.

Last night, as Jewish families worldwide began our observance of the Sabbath, we blessed our children. As I led my congregation in this prayer, I couldn’t help think of the 2,000 children separated from their families. They deserve a blessing, too. They deserve to be back with their families. Families Belong Together.

It is for moments such as this that the Bible commands humanity 36 times to treat the outsider, the stranger, the alien properly. When something is commanded just once in the Bible, it is important. When it is commanded 36 times, it is a central theme of the Bible, underscoring what it means to be religious. Don’t quote me anything else from the Bible if you can’t do this: treat the outsider, the stranger, the alien, the immigrant properly.

Raise your hand if you feel that Families Belong Together. 2,000 children whose families are seeking refuge in this country are currently separated from their families. This cannot stand. It cannot stand because it has always been wrong.

Don’t believe me? Ask Ruth and Naomi. Listen to Ruth’s statement: “whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge.” Hear in her adult declaration the world that children expect. To take this stability away, to include it as part of a punishment, is nothing short of cruelty.

Families Belong Together. Don’t believe me? Ask Moses, Miriam, and Aaron. They knew a world where Pharaoh would do anything to allay his fears. You remember Pharaoh’s grand idea: take babies and throw them into the river. Tear families apart. Moses, Miriam and Aaron had a message for their time: Let My People Go! Stop the oppression.

Today, we have a message: Families Belong Together. But if that message just stays here, what have we done? 600 rallies across this continent today. Let our decision makers hear your voice. Take out your cell phone. Here’s the number of the Capitol Hill Switchboard – (202) 224-3121. Again that’s (202) 224-3121. Starting on Monday, make three calls, one to your House Representative and two more to our Senators, Burr and Tillis.
“I am outraged at the Administration’s immoral decision to use the threat of family separation and indefinite family incarceration to deter immigration. The President, the Attorney General and officials at he Department of Homeland Security must adopt enforcement mechanisms that keep families together and protect the rights of those people seeking asylum in this country, and members of Congress should urge them to do the same”
Remember, call our elected officials in D.C. And echo what you have declared here today: Families Belong Together.


Rabbi Andy Koren is the Associate Rabbi of Temple Emanuel, Greensboro.


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