Monday, March 25, 2013

Passover and Immigration

Passover and Immigration
This week I have been thinking about the similarities between the story of the Jews in Egypt and immigration policy in our country. Here are some thoughts:
  1. During Joseph's time we had free entrance of Jews into Egypt, a welcoming government; we were provided with food and resources. As a result, the Jews settled in Goshen and prospered. 
  2. During Moses' time: Jews were considered resident aliens, and were enslaved, and their babies could be killed at will. We were also deprived of our freedom of movement ("Let my people go," was Moses' cry). The Torah is clear that things deteriorated, “and a new Pharaoh rose who did not know Joseph.
I understand that Ancient Egypt was not a democracy and that policies changed often capriciously, but I see an striking and troublesome parallel between what our ancestors experienced in Egypt and what many immigrant communities have experienced in America in the past 120 years. As in Egypt, there was a time (roughly until WW I) when MOST immigrants were admitted to our country -we had an "open immigration" policy. But beginning in 1924, things changed dramatically. The total volume of Jewish immigration from 1881-1914 was 2,400,000, overwhelmingly from Eastern Europe. It went from 119,000 in 1921 to 2,755 in 1932! Immigration policy to the U. S. has never been back to welcoming laws pre-1924. Visit to learn about immigrants' stories and to find out if YOUR ancestors would have been admitted had they tried to immigrate to our country under current law.
During the Seder we read,  “In every generation we are obligated to see ourselves as though we personally went out from Egypt.” Re-living this journey helps us appreciate our own freedom anew, but it should also teach us to empathize with all of those who live in fear and are seeking their own promised land. 

What is your immigration story? Share it with us below.

Follow the development of the our movement's joint action for sensitive comprehensive immigration reform at

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Caring Community

Some years ago, due to various reasons, our congregation discontinued the Sisterhood and Brotherhood. Both organizations brought people together and fostered a sense of community; they also made it possible to help each other through difficult times in life as well as to rejoice together. Although our dedicated volunteers have shifted their time and efforts to other important areas of our congregation, some of the needs those organizations used to address are currently unfulfilled.

Auxiliary organizations are based on the Jewish value of solidarity. The culture of service to others has a strong basis within the history of Jewish communal life. For instance, classic rabbinic texts underscore the importance of the mitzvah of bikur cholim (visiting the ill or suffering). All members of the community are obligated to engage in bikur cholim

We read in the Talmud that when one of Rabbi Akivah's students was ailing no one would come to visit this person. Finally Rabbi Akivah himself went to the ill student's bedside and began to sweep and make some order. The student subsequently recovered and credited his recovery to Rabbi Akivah's visits. This tale reminds us of our power to bring wholeness, refu'at hanefesh (healing of the spirit) through our presence and our caring. Through the example of his actions Rabbi Akivah taught that reaching out to others in bad times is a mitzvah that we all must consider. 

The caring presence and concrete assistance of a caring person can help heal another. It is also a wonderful way of engaging members of our congregation in mitzvot that bring holiness into each other’s lives. In order to honor this ancient tradition, our congregation is coming together again. In the next few months we will launch a new program focused on compassion and care. We are still working on the details, but it will include visiting the sick, delivering some meals, and providing support in times of sorrow as well as of simchah –happiness.

We want to be as effective as possible, but in order to do so, we need everyone’s involvement. I welcome your input. Please, share your thought in the comments below.
I am curious to know what would you like to see happen. What do you think our members need? How would you like to participate? Let us come together once again and create a stronger community.