WASHINGTON (RNS) In the midst of the Jewish holiday season, more than 1,200 rabbis and cantors have urged Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
“We thought it was a particularly good time to speak out as rabbis and cantors on this issue that really speaks to us as Americans and as Jews,” said Barbara Weinstein, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Reform movement’s Washington office that coordinated the effort.
“For centuries, Jews were guests in others’ lands and not always treated well.”
Rabbis and cantors from the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist streams of American Judaism made their appeal in a letter issued Sept. 12.
The rabbis called for legislation to create a clear path to citizenship, reunite separated families, further humane border protection, open legal opportunities for immigrant workers and create avenues for refugees and asylum seekers.
According to a survey released last March by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brooking Institution, two-thirds of U.S. Jews support allowing immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally to become citizens after meeting certain requirements. Just 13 percent say illegal immigrants should be deported.
The letter was issued the day before the start of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, and just days before Sukkot, the Jewish harvest festival that commemorates the 40 years the Israelites dwelt in the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt.
The letter described Jewish history of having “over millennia continuously been expelled, been rejected, been freed and been welcomed,” portraying immigration reform as a reflection of Jewish values.
Weinstein said Jewish leaders had noticed slowed momentum on immigration reform. During Yom Kippur, a time for introspection, these leaders decided to make immigration reform a priority for the coming year.
“High Holy Days are the prime moment where we reflect on the year past and think about how we want to do better in the year to come,” Weinstein said. “For a long time now our immigration system has been broken and as we reflect on that we see we are in a unique moment where it needs to be fixed.”
Weinstein said the push to lawmakers is one part of a broader effort on the part of the American Jewish community to push for immigration reform, including rabbis reaching members across the country and speaking individually with representatives in Congress.