Immigrant Justice and Sanctuary
The origin story of our people is one of movement. God calls Abraham and Sarah to leave their land, crossing borders and boundaries, without documentation, seeking out a new land.
This idea of movement—of leaving one place in search of another—becomes the master story of our people: fleeing Pharaoh’s bondage in Egypt seeking a new home and a new life in the Promised Land; forced to flee their homes in Spain during the Inquisition; fleeing the Pale of Settlement when Jews were attacked by Cossacks; fleeing Europe before, during, and after the Shoah; leaving Middle Eastern and North African countries for Israel in the 1950s and 60s.
We, as Jews, know the heart of the immigrant. Torah commands, because we were strangers in the land of Egypt. Avraham and Sarah open their tent flaps wide to welcome strangers from all directions, setting the moral table for radical hospitality for all the generations that would flow from them. We take seriously God’s commandment to show compassion to our neighbors, to welcome them into our homes.
We see our story in the faces and in the stories of people at our southern border. We see in them people fleeing violence and slavery and war; people seeking out a new life for themselves and their children, to pray, to play, to live, freely without fear, without violence.
Although our stories differ across time and space, the underlying religious commitment remains the same: all people—especially the vulnerable—are to be treated with compassion, decency, and righteously. It is our religious duty to advocate with those fleeing war-torn lands who seek to build lives here or have lived here for years. Our theological commitment is to dream a new world into being.
On January 20, 2017, Shir Tikvah declared ourselves a Sanctuary congregation to stand with those human beings who may lack documentation but whose humanity we witness and celebrate. We vowed as a community to welcome anyone seeking sanctuary, to protect them with the power of our tradition and the moral clarity of our religious voice; to nourish them with abundant food as Avraham and Sarah did in their tent; to help educate their children and tend to their weary and traumatized souls.
We declared our willingness to offer safety, refuge and welcome in our building to immigrants regardless of immigration status.
Our story—the ancient one we encounter in Torah and we live today—is not risk free. For people fleeing war torn lands, who seek to build lives here, who have lived here for years, they are taking great risks. We believe that it is our religious duty to advocate with them, to challenging the morally repugnant policies of our current administration, and join in a network of more than 70 sanctuary synagogues across the nation to do what is just and right.
And our work is not risk free either. To do this holy work means being close to harm, intimate with the possibility and consequences of agony and grief and loss. And still, we do it anyway. Why?
Because our religious story is one of movement.
Because human beings are not political footballs.
Because this is the story of our Torah: We hold humanity at the center of our lives and in the heart of our communities, we take seriously God’s commandment to show compassion to our neighbors, to welcome them into our homes, to love robustly the wandering, the yearning, those who have taken excruciating risks for themselves and their families to be here. It is up to us—the descendants of Avraham and Sarah—to welcome them into our tent, to do our very best to keep them from harm, so that one day they—and we—might be saved.