A Statement from the Leadership of the
Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee
and the Community Relations Committee
Inherent within the mission of the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee is to nurture our basic Jewish values and to speak out when those values are threatened, even when threats are directed toward others in our greater community. One of Judaism’s most time honored and practiced virtues—the virtue of Hachnasat Orchim—directs us to welcome the stranger; to offer hospitality. At the Passover Seder we welcome anyone who is hungry, who suffers from oppression or who has suffered because those in power distrust their presence.
The Torah’s commandments regarding strangers represent nothing more or less than the rigorous application of the principles of universal social justice. Perhaps this explains why this Jewish virtue aligns with a basic American value and tradition: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
The recent Executive Order on Immigration and Refugees challenges these values. Jews know what discrimination feels like by being categorized as “the other” and, therefore, we must resist this treatment for any other community, religion or country. We must look for ways to balance valid national security concerns about terrorism with equally pressing and overwhelming humanitarian needs.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), the coordinating body of the Jewish community relations field, expressed deep concern because the Executive Order would restrict entry for refugees from predominantly Muslim countries, halt federal funding for “sanctuary cities,” and expand detention for immigrants and asylum-seekers. Other major national Jewish organizations, including all four American Jewish denominations—Orthodox, Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist—have gone on record expressing concern over specific aspects of the Executive Order.
The impact has already been felt here in Nashville in a tangible way. A Kurdish family, Fuad Sharef Suleman and his wife Arazoo Ibrahim and their three children enroute to Nashville and were stopped in Cairo before they could board their connecting flight to Nashville on January 28. They were escorted from Cairo International Airport back to Iraq, even though they had valid visas to enter the United States after a lengthy and comprehensive vetting process.
The Executive Order has also impacted Jewish refugees from Muslim-majority countries despite completed paperwork following multi-year vetting by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Department of Homeland Security. HIAS, the former Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, reports that over 90 Jewish refugees from Iran entered the U.S. last year.
We stand with our friends and neighbors in the Muslim community just as its leadership stood publicly with us during the recent wave of bomb threats targeted at our Jewish community center, calling it for what is was--a vicious calculated act of anti-Semitism.
The Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee will work locally to support those adversely impacted by recent events. With our history in our minds, we feel a special responsibility to make sure that others fleeing persecution, war and violence will find protection and safe haven in our great country which is truly blessed with liberty and freedom for all.
Lisa Perlen, President Ron Galbraith, Chair, Community Relations Committee
Mark S. Freedman, Executive Director Abbie Wolf, Community Relations Director