A few weeks ago we read from the Torah in Parashat Mishpatim, “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” The Torah sees a direct relationship between the experience of our own oppression and our ability to care for those who are marginalized. Additionally, the Torah specifically calls for the protection of the widow and orphan and describes the punishment of mistreating them. “If you mistreat them, I will heed their outcry as soon as they cry out to me, and My anger shall blaze forth and I will put you to the sword, and your own wives shall become widows and your children orphans.” (Ex. 22:20-23). In fact, 36 times in the Torah, Israel is commanded to be compassionate to those that require assistance. This message is what separates the nation from its enslavers, reminding the Israelites and by extension the Jewish people how we should act when faced with the opportunity to care for the stranger.
Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a situation that calls on us to remember our own oppression. Shaarei Tikvah’s Social Justice Committee is leading an effort to encourage all of us to recognize and respond to the concern for immigrants in our country. Thousands of individuals known as Dreamers who came to the US at a young age through a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which temporarily shields them from deportation and allows them to study and work legally, may be deported to a country that was never their home and possibly be endangered. (See some of their stories here.) In addition, we are concerned for the safety of many other immigrants who have come to the United States as a safe place to live and raise their families, who need support to help them integrate in a healthy way into their communities.
We are encouraging anyone who cares about the futures of these immigrants to respond to their needs right now. We have partnered with Neighbors Link which has been providing education, employment and legal services for immigrant families throughout Westchester County since 2001. A few months ago we learned about Neighbors Link in a presentation by a few of their leaders at Shaarei Tikvah. Check out the attached documents to read about this organization, which describes the mission and the work that they do along with volunteer opportunities in which we should all consider participating.
We encourage everyone to consider taking action in three ways. First, think about volunteering at Neighbors Link to connect with the immigrants who are supported by the organization. Second, please consider a donation to help Neighbors Link build its capacity to support more immigrants integrating into their communities. Currently, Neighbors Link is fundraising for an ESL Program (English as a Second Language). Please see the attached wish-list which totals $2,796 and see what you could do to help them achieve this dream. Please make your contribution directly to Neighbors Link as mentioned in the attachments.
Third, in order to advocate for immigrants, please send your email address to Robin in our office. In addition, we will keep the congregation apprised of additional ways to get involved in this issue.
Thank you for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of thousands of people.
Rabbi Baldachin and the Social Justice Committee