Tisha B’Av and Immigration

On June 27th with a 68-32 vote, the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill. Now all eyes turn to the U.S.House of Representatives. The Senate bill allocates more money to border security while also creating a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants. Unfortunately, members of the House of Representatives seem unable to come to a similar bipartisan, comprehensive agreement that includes a pathway to citizenship. Last week the House Republicans caucused on immigration reform, yet did not appear to reach consensus on how best to proceed on either content or process.

Today, we commemorate the holiday of Tisha B’Av, the day in which Jews have painfully been forced into immigration on multiple instances throughout our history. On the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av in 586 BCE and then 70 CE, the Babylonians and Romans, respectively, destroyed the Temple that stood on top of Mount Zion in Jerusalem. The Jewish people were exiled from their homeland – and in both cases, many Jews immigrated to foreign lands, once again becoming strangers.

Other events associated with Tisha B’Av remind us of our own history as immigrants, and spur us to create a more accepting society. In 1492 Jews were kicked out of Spain. On July 23, 1942, again on Tisha B’Av, mass deportation began from the Warsaw Ghetto. In both of these cases, the population saw Jews as different and outsiders – and we survived as a people only due to the few cultures and societies that did in fact “welcome the stranger.”

In the contemporary U.S., our immigrants perhaps do not face death in ways as dire as the Spanish Inquisition or the Shoah, but they still do experience tremendous hardship and fear of deportation. Without comprehensive immigration reform that does justice to our American and Jewish values, the 11 million undocumented immigrants are at risk of upheaval, similar to the experiences of Jewish people that we remember especially today.

Luckily, it appears that there might be some hope. There are discussions of a potential bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives, and members from both chambers and both sides of the aisle remain committed to passing comprehensive reform this year. Let us use the commemoration of Tisha B’av to reaffirm our own commitment to acting on behalf of our nation’s immigrants, and to welcome the stranger in ways that does honor to those who welcomed us time and time again throughout history.

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Steven Morris

About Steven Morris

Steven Morris is a summer rabbinic intern at the RAC. He lives in New York, NY and just completed his third year of rabbinical school at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, New York campus

3 Responses to “Tisha B’Av and Immigration”

  1. what social action is appropriate for this Tishah b’av for this August 4th? Want to have a Spanish/English observance with friends from Central America and give more meaning than spending the day mourning. Morning is good, but action is a better memory.

  2. Nice connection of Jewish history to U.S. politics.


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