Guided by our Jewish values and history, Jewish Americans feel a deep sense of responsibility to ensure the protection of refugees, those fleeing the current atrocities and violence taking over their homelands. We still distinctly recall the time when, we too, had the world turn its back on us as we were met with closed doors.
On the eve of World War II, more than two-thirds of the American public agreed with the proposition that "we should try to keep them out," referring to refugees- most of them Jewish refugees, with less than 5% believing that the U.S. should raise immigration quotas to provide sanctuary for these Jewish refugees. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank recalls:
“This growing cry to turn away people fleeing for their lives brings to mind the SS St. Louis, the ship of Jewish refugees turned away from Florida in 1939. It’s perhaps the ugliest moment in a primary fight that has been sullied by bigotry from the start. It’s no exaggeration to call this un-American.”
Even after the inexplicable horrors of the Holocaust were made known across the international community, many Jewish survivors sat in displaced persons camps for years. They did not have a home to return to, and no surviving family to rely on.
President Obama remarked at the group of 20 summit meeting in Turkey on Monday:
“Many of these refugees are the victims of terrorism themselves, that’s what they’re fleeing…Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values. Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both.”
We find it absolutely shameful that Republicans are exploiting this crisis for their political gain by attacking not only the President but also refugees who are fleeing for their lives and to protect their children. Governor Chris Christie, a Republican candidate, said the U.S. should not accept any refugees, even those under the age of five. Former Governor Jeb Bush, another Republican candidate, suggested that the U.S. should screen refugees and only help those who are Christian.
As Jewish Americans, we stand firm as we say “never again.” Never again will we allow the world to stand silent as thousands of innocent civilians search for a safety. As humans, we are better than that.