My Father Was a Refugee

By September 13, 2018February 12th, 2019Rabbi Tzemah's Blog

Like most all of you, I find our government’s response to the refugee crisis to be utterly despicable.

The world is engulfed in a refugee crisis the likes of which have not been seen since World War II. Tens of millions of people are on the move. It’s not because they want to be, it’s not because they are looking to infiltrate other countries and become a fifth column or violent criminals. It is because life is intolerable where they lived; the wars, famines, crime, persecution, and poverty have just become too much.

They are not criminals! And yet when they come here that is the way they are treated. They are thrown into ‘detention centers’, with little legal recourse. Up until recently, children were torn away from nursing mothers and transported to distant parts of the country. Most have still not been reunited with their parents.

We can do so much better.

We must do so much better!

My father was a refugee. So many of us in the Jewish community can say that.  My father escaped Romania as a baby with his parents following World War II and came as a refugee to Canada. My great uncle remained and was jailed by the communist regime for almost two decades.

Beyond the moral imperative of helping fellow human beings in need, our history of wandering unwanted from land to land compels us to act. Let us do for others what in so many cases was not done for us. We are citizens of the most powerful and richest country on earth. The duty to help the less fortunate should fall on us more than others.

We don’t need texts from our cultural heritage to justify this, though they do so clearly. It is very simply at the root of most moral codes that I know of, it is basic to every definition of humanism with which I am familiar.

If our leaders fail us and act cruelly, we must redouble our efforts. We must advocate in the loudest voice possible that this is not right. We must vote for candidates who promise to treat refugees and immigrants with compassion. We must donate time and money to organizations who fight for these landless people.  Most of all we must treat others the way we ourselves would like to be treated, compassionately.