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

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