Turbulent Days of Early 2017

In light of the current turbulent atmosphere in the United States of America, the Social Action Committee of the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations calls on everyone to stay informed, stand up and speak up!

There have been so many troubling actions taken recently that it is hard to isolate the one that should secure our focus.

We believe the recent ban on refugees entering the United States from seven Muslim majority countries is a fear-based, nationalistic tactic that does irreparable harm. As Jewish people, we have seen what this type of religious discrimination can lead to. In 1939, the MS St. Louis, a ship carrying hundreds of Jewish refugees arrived at New York and was turned away. These refugees were sent back to Europe, where most of them suffered and perished in concentration camps. Many of their stories were being told for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, almost at the same time as the signing of an Executive Order barring people who are fleeing from war and violence from entering the United States. This order inferred entry preference to Christians, clearly discriminating on the basis of religion. This is the exact opposite of the values on which this country was founded. This ban refused entry to people who had already gone through the lengthy process of obtaining visas to enter the United States legally. We believe that the words on the Statue of Liberty are not just lip service, but should remain a guiding principal.

The recent and upcoming appointments of people in key positions are of great concern. Not only do they lack relevant expertise they have such close ties with hate groups and often have they spoken words of bigotry, demonstrating lack of compassion for the vulnerable.

As Jewish people must remain acutely aware of how quickly hate and fear of the "other" can motivate people to commit terrible crimes. Continued hate speech rapidly becomes more than talk and is often interpreted as justification for the commission of acts of terror and violence. We must work to ensure power is not given to hate speakers and demand those in power promote a civil and unifying citizenry. It is our responsibility to give protection to the vulnerable and work to better this world. The value of tikkun olam, repair of the world, is part of our heritage and now is the time to embrace it.

At times we may feel powerless to change the current atmosphere, but there are so many ways to contribute and add goodness in the world. If each of us makes a commitment to act, our impact can be great. The weight of the world does not rest solely on our individual shoulders. Here are some ways that we can all share the load:

  • Contact your representatives; they work for us.
  • Stay informed without suffering from activist burn out. Take care of yourself.
  • Commit random acts of kindness.
  • Donate money when you can.
  • Volunteer: Pick the issue that speaks loudest to you and work with the group that is responding.
  • Show up to demonstrations. Let your feet walk the message.
  • Help your family, friends, neighbors, and strangers. Listen actively, especially to marginalized voices.

Nothing is ever hopeless. But the work for justice is never over. Let's get to work.