Celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month

We are celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month this month–and this year’s theme is “Tikkun Olam: Repairing the World.” It is a good time, then, to reflect on the many Jewish organizations and groups working to achieve a better world. Some groups are engaged in direct service, around the world and here at home, on all scales and on all sorts of important issues. And other groups, like the RAC, are working here in Washington, D.C., in an attempt to shift federal policy in a direction that align with our Jewish values.

As someone relatively new to the Jewish communal world, I have been pleasantly surprised by the extent to which the Jewish organizations in D.C. work well together in pursuit of shared priorities. And while most of the groups share many goals in common, on one issue in particular the entire Jewish community has been firmly united: achieving comprehensive immigration reform. It is an issue we discuss at every joint meeting, and one where there is broad consensus in the community.

Led by HIAS, the community has united around the mantra, “We Were Strangers, Too: The Jewish Campaign for Immigration Reform.” As a community, we have called on Congress to enact fair and just immigration reform that comports with our values.

This unity of purpose is a product of the clarity of Jewish tradition on the treatment of immigrants. Our faith demands of us concern for the stranger in our midst. Leviticus commands, “When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” [19:33-34]. This principle permeates Jewish tradition and is echoed 35 times in the Torah – the most repeated of any commandment.

At the same time, the Jewish community is an immigrant community. Jews have always been immigrants in the countries where we have lived, and our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents came to the United States from all over the world. As a community cognizant of these roots and grateful for our successes in this country, our advocates in Washington have been working to create the same opportunities for today’s immigrants that were so valuable to our own community not so many years ago.

You can learn more about the efforts of the entire Jewish community here, or about the Reform Movement’s efforts here and here. And don’t forget to urge your Member of Congress to support comprehensive immigration reform!

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Charlie Arnowitz

About Charlie Arnowitz

Charlie Arnowitz is a Legislative Assistant at the RAC, responsible for civil rights, immigration, and healthcare issues. He is a native of Highland Park, IL and a 2013 graduate of Vermont's Middlebury College.

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