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March 24, 2017     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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March 24, 2017

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 24, 2017 PAGE 5A By Jonathan S. Tobin JNS .org At a time when much of American Jewry is opposed to the immigration policies of the nascent administra- tion of President Donald Trump, it was probably only to be expected that a growing number of synagogues would declare themselves "sanctuar- ies" where "undocumented" immigrants--a euphemism for those who crossed into the U.S. illegally or overstayed their visas--can find both shelter and help in evading the authorities. These institutions and their supporters say their decision is grounded injustice, history and even Jewish liturgy. But in spite of the high-flown rhetoric they put forward to defend their actions, this concept is about partisan politics, not principle. The motivation for the growth in support for this idea is a desire to join the "resistance" against Trump rather than a serious belief that religious institutions have the right to designate their buildings as a place where the law may not be enforced. The notion of "sanctu- ary" can be traced to the Bible where cities of refuge are mentioned. But there is no analogy between illegal immigration and a law to shield those who had com- mitted manslaughter so as to prevent them from being killed outright as a matter of tribal blood vengeance. Jews are commanded to "welcome the strangers" in their midst and to oppose discrimination. But here again, the link to contemporary controversies breaks down because nothing in Jewish law grants foreign- ers the right to enter the country and stay indefinitely without permission. Far more compelling are arguments based in recent history. Liberals say that as the descendants of immi- grants, Jews should support new arrivals. Most emotively, they point to the enactment of restrictive U.S. immigra- tion laws in the 1920s that were aimed at European Jews and then America's refusal to provide a safe haven for those fleeing the Nazi death ma- chine during the Holocaust as a reason to oppose Trump's executive orders temporar- people to differ about whether vetting procedures already in place are sufficient to protect the security of Americans at a time when Islamist terrorism is on the rise without label- ing opponents as analogous to 1930s-era anti-Semites, or without pretending that Syrians--who have already "We can identify with their plight, but the hyperbolic claims about them being victims of injustice has little basis in fact." ily banning entry from six Muslim-majority countries that are terrorist hotbeds, as well as the pause in accepting Syrian refugees. But the notion that the Syr- ians, let alone those streaming over the border from Mexico, are analogous to Jews who were all marked for death by the Nazis is absurd. It should be possible for reasonable found havens elsewhere--and other would-be immigrants are in anything like the same position as the Jews during the Holocaust. Few of those who might take advantage of sanctuary synagogues are actually flee- ing persecution, and they can petition the government and courts for asylum. The overwhelming majority of those on the run are economic migrants. We can identify with their plight, but the hy- perbolic claims about them being victims of injustice has little basis in fact. They broke a reasonable law enacted by a legitimate government, not a tyrannical regime, and like all those who violate the law, they don't wish to be held ac- countable. One may agree with the idea that immigration is good for the country without accept- ing the notion that those who have come here illegally should be able to remain with impunity. We can even agree that some answer short of mass deportation should be found for those who have been here for many years without further lawbreaking, and for their children who violated no law on their own. But until our system provides such a solution, if you are arguing that your synagogue has a right to grant sanctuary, then for all intents and purposes what you are saying is that the U.S.--apparently alone among the nations--has no right to determine who may enter its borders. Indeed, if that logic holds, then the concepts of borders and laws can be nullified by a m lange of sympathy for lawbreakers and animus for the current president. Jews should also remember that the essence of a demo- cratic nation--and the safety of minority communities such as our own--rests on the no- tion of the rule of law. However much as we might sympathize with illegal immigrants, they are not Holocaust refugees or runaway slaves. They are simply people who broke a law that legal immigrants have re- spected. No matter how much you may dislike Trump, that can't justify turning houses of worship into places where the will of a democratic nation can be flouted. Jonathan S. Tobin is opin- ion editor of Follow him on Twitter at: @jona- thans_tobin. By Guila Franklin Siegel (Kveller via JTA)--When a friend, cause or institution we support has been hurt or under attack, it's human nature--and admirable--for people to want to "do some- thing" to be helpful. Unfor- tunately, onlookers' idea of being helpful is not always what's most useful to those who have been hurt. We've seen it recently at one Planned Parenthood medical office, where pro- choice protesters gathered to counter those protesting against abortion. The protest went on despite the organi- zation's preference for non- engagement at its clinic sites in deference to patient safety. And I saw it two weeks ago when we learned of yet another round of telephoned bomb threats received by Jew- ish institutions--thankfully once again all hoaxes. This was the second time one of our local agencies had been targeted, and as the associate director of our local Jewish community relations council I had an inkling of what the next hours and days would look like. Things became intensely personal for me, though, when we were told that two local institutions had received bomb threats and one of them was my older sons' Jewish day school. I reminded myself that all the previous threats had been hoaxes, took a deep breath and jumped into action with our staff. The school and local law enforcement handled the threat beautifully. The next day we began working in earnest on a united communal response, bringing in elected officials, law enforcement and our interfaith partners. At some point we began receiv- ing inquiries about an event that a small group of people not directly connected to the targeted institutions were planning. They intended to have a rally right outside my sons' school, at the carpool line, at 7:30 a.m. They were calling the event "Bagels, Not Bombs." At that moment, my morn instincts completely took over. "Bagels, Not Bombs?" What kind of message is that? Did I really want my sons, who thankfully had been so calm and unafraid in the face of a hateful person threatening to blow up their school, to see people waving signs about bombs at morning drop-off? More important, did I want an event at my kids' school that was open to the public, was being advertised every- where on social media and could attract anyone? Our school devotes a ton of money and resources to security, and preserving the integrity of the carpool line is a critical part of that effort. Letters To The Editor We are a diverse community and we welcome your letters and viewpoints. The views and opinions expressed in the opinion pieces and letters published in The Heri- tage are the views of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of The Heritage Florida Jewish News or its staff. The Heritage reserves the right to edit letters for clarity, content, and accuracy. And respectful of lashon hara, we will not print derogatory statements against any individual. Please limit letters to 250 words. Send letters to P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. Or e-mail to news@ Kind support that makes such a difference Dear Editor: My mother-in-law passed away in January. While she had been suffering from poor health, her death was unexpected and our fam- ily was in shock. In the early morning hours that followed, we started doing the activities that all Jew- ish families do at moments like this: Phone calls were made; travel arrangements were put in place. When should the funeral be? Who can attend? Are the Rabbi and Cantor available to of- ficiate? What is the address of the cemetery? Scores of logistics, all of which require timely answers in order to have loved ones gather at a graveside within 24 hours. This is not easy--especially at such an emotional time. Speaking with Tim and then Sammy Goldstein, at Beth Shalom Memorial Chapel was like lifting a great weight from our shoulders. Suddenly the road ahead was cleared of any boulders and the potholes were filled in. Sammy madethe phone calls and all of the arrangements as per our requests. This was our third time working with Sammy and through each sad experi- ence, he provided kindness and support to our family as he gently guided us through what needed to happen in the hours and days that followed. Sammy and his team have stepped into our lives at times of emotional stress and have been beacons during some of our darkest moments. In the days and months that follow the passing of a loved one, grieving gives way to moving on with life. Often overlooked, is recognition of the support that Sammy Goldstein and his staff at Beth Shalom Memorial Cha- pel provide to our Jewish community in our times of need. Sammy, thank you for all you do. With appreciation, Loren and Robert London and the family of Miriam Cohen Shader. I quickly learned that the school had not sanctioned this event, but nonetheless word was spreading like wild- fire on Facebook. It seemed like a well-meaning effort to stand up to anti-Semites and support the school. However, at JCRC, where our job is to always be sensitized to the larger implications for our Jewish community of, well, everything, we were alarmed. We worked with the school, and asked the organizers to cancel the event for the stu- dents' safety and emotional well-being. But they held their rally across the street from the school. Dozens of people showed up, as did many TV, radio and print news outlets. Later in the day, the orga- nizers enthused on social media about the attendance and press coverage they had garnered. Again, this rally's organiz- ers were well-meaning, but they don't have children at our school. They know nothing about our school's culture or our children's needs. More- over, the head of the school had told them not to proceed with their plan because it would be detrimental to the students' well-being. The fallout?Well, the school understandably put additional security in place for morn- ing carpool. Other parents told me their children were distraught because they knew there was going to be a rally, they saw the extra police of- ricers and patrol cars, and this scared them. From my own perspective, precious time and energy was wasted in trying to contain this situation at a time when we needed to devote every second to responding to the crisis caused by the bomb threats themselves. I must admit that I am an- gry-as a Jewish communal professional, but mostly as a Jewish mother. After the trauma earlier in the week, I am furious that the tranquil- ity of my children's morning drop-off was compromised. If people wanted to hold their own rally, "geh gezunt aheit," as my mother would have said. But not at or near my kids' school. Not for the benefit of TV cameras. And notwhen the peoplel trust to take care of my children have told you to stay away. One of the first lessons I learned as a Jewish commu- nity relations professional was to be sure to ask others what they need in times of crisis. We are imperfect human beings, which means that oftentimes, what we think would be help- ful, even what we truly believe, is actually quite the opposite. Sadly, there will be more crises in the years to come. So to anyone who feels the impulse to respond, why not ask first? And if the answer is an appreciative but firm "no thank you," please take that "no" for an answer and find another way to express your solidarity. Guila Franklin Siegel is as- sociate director of the Jewish Community Relations Coun- cil of Greater Washington. Kveller is a thriving com- munity of women andparents who convene online to share, celebrate and commiserate their experiences of rais- ing kids through a Jewish lens. 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