The following are statements put out by the USCJ on issues of importance to the congregation.
The Conservative movement of Judaism through its constituent organizations, including United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism of which BEKI is a member, issued a statement on January 29, 2017 in regard to the recent executive order related to immigrants and refugees. This statement and the underlying principles were discussed at length by the directors and officers at the most recent BEKI Board of Directors meeting. It was the consensus of the BEKI Board to bring this statement to the attention of the BEKI membership and community. The Board voted to support the statement and the underlying principle that action by the government that is directed against a particular group defined by their religious beliefs stands against the values of Judaism.
The Board does not take such a statement lightly and does so with the understanding that this is a complex issue with many points of view and may not be speaking for its membership as a whole. That diversity of opinion and respect for each other’s beliefs is part of what makes the BEKI community a strong and vibrant one.
In that regard, this is also a time when we can come together in reasoned discourse to share opinions and ideas. BEKI will be hosting a talk to facilitate such a conversation in the coming weeks. A copy of the statement of the Conservative movement follows and can also be found on the USCJ website.
Harold M. Birn
President, Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel
on behalf of the officers and directors of the congregation
NEW YORK – The Conservative/Masorti movement of Judaism as represented by its constituent organizations listed below has issued the following statement regarding the executive order President Donald Trump signed barring many refugees and immigrants from entering the United States:
Deeply rooted in our tradition, faith, and values, we are a people of immigrants. Throughout our history we often were the stranger in a strange land and were persecuted and attacked simply for being the other. As Jews, it is not only our religious values that speak to welcoming those who seek shelter and safety, but it is also a pillar of free, democratic nations.
Our religious tradition repeatedly forbids us from oppressing the stranger. For instance, Leviticus 19:34 commands us, ‘The strangers who reside with you shall be to you as your citizens; you shall love each one as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.’ And Exodus, ‘And you shall not wrong a stranger, neither shall you oppress them; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.’ It is a betrayal of Jewish history and our own Jewish values to stand quiet as victims of war and terror are left helpless — especially on the basis of religion.
The protracted war in Syria has created 7 million displaced persons within Syria alone and millions more throughout the Middle East, with refugees escaping through Turkey, the Balkans and Europe. Meanwhile, millions of undocumented immigrants in America live in fear of imprisonment, deportation or worse. The Conservative movement has continuously and consistently advocated for the rights of immigrants including pathways to citizenship and family reunification as a top priority. We call on the US government to reject policy proposals that would halt, limit, or curtail refugee resettlement in the U.S. or prioritize certain refugees over others; and urge President Trump and the U.S. Congress to instead take bold leadership by providing robust funding to support refugees around the world as well as provide necessary resources to refugees who are already resettled in the U.S.
Most importantly, the Conservative Movement completely rejects the targeting of individuals based on their religion. As Jews, it is an affront to our fundamental values. We are all enriched by the diverse set of experiences that immigrants bring to our society. We see it not only throughout our economy and educational system, but also in our synagogues, camps, schools, and institutions where people of diverse backgrounds, countries of origin and experiences come together to pray to the same God, who sees us all as equals. To do otherwise betrays the Jewish values we find deeply engrained in our faith and history.
Organizations of the Conservative Movement of Judaism are appalled by the violence that took place at the United States Capitol Wednesday afternoon. We call on all American political and religious leaders to condemn in unequivocal terms this attack on democracy and its institutions. We also demand that, having been certified by the respective states and in the courts, all political leaders, including President Trump, defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States, affirm the results of the recent elections, and speedily return to the peaceful transfer of power that has been the hallmark of American democracy for over 200 years.
We are grateful to law enforcement for ejecting the rioters and re-establishing control of the Capitol, and pray for their safety and the security of Congressional leaders.
As a minority within American society, the Jewish people appreciate the democratic principles enshrined in the US Constitution. Civil liberties, and those of other minorities and marginalized groups, are guaranteed only when all leaders affirm the rule of law. The sight of a noose and Nazi symbols at the Capitol was sickening. Since the riot in Charlottesville in 2017, we have been concerned about both the danger posed by white supremacist and other extreme groups, and the weak response to those groups by some US political leaders. It is time for all political leaders to unequivocally denounce such beliefs and behaviors. As we remember each Passover, our people’s historical experience reminds us that every generation must respond to the challenge of bigotry and rise to the defense of freedom.
The basis for democracy stems from the Torah’s belief that every person is created equally in God’s image and is therefore entitled to equal representation in government and equal protection under the law. Each week we pray during our Shabbat worship to “uproot from our hearts hatred and malice, jealousy and strife. Plant love and companionship, peace and friendship, among the many people and faiths who dwell in our nation.” This prayer is more than an expression of faith. It is a call to action, and we have much work to do to heal the deep wounds and divisions which afflict the United States and society.
May the new US leaders, who are coming to power this month at every level of government, rise to the responsibility the voters have entrusted to them to bring healing and exercise responsible governance.
The Rabbinical Assembly
American Jewish University-Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies
The Cantors Assembly
North American Association of Synagogue Executives-NAASE
Jewish Educators Assembly
Jewish Youth Directors Association
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism-USCJ
Women’s League for Conservative Judaism