The past few days have caused waves of political distress throughout the country. Unfortunately, we have become so polarized as a nation that we have lost our abilities to engage in civil discourse, and I believe that this has the potential to cripple us in our abilities to respond to those whose lives are being effected. The vitriol and anger that permeates our society is compromising how we relate to each other as human beings, and this is something that cannot be ignored. Our faith and our history as Jews demands that we respond to the human aspects of the situation at hand with a sense of justice, mercy and compassion.
NO MATTER WHAT OUR POLITICAL VIEWS MAY BE, our faith has a great deal to say regarding how we should treat each other. The Torah repeatedly forbids us from oppressing the stranger:
“The stranger that sojourns with you shall be to you as your citizen; you shall love each one as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”(Leviticus 19:34)
“You shall not wrong a stranger, neither shall you oppress them; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”(Exodus 22:21)
NO MATTER WHAT OUR POLITICAL VIEWS MAY BE, our history of oppression demands that we remain vigilant. Our determination as a people is rooted in centuries of persecution. We have been targeted and isolated, pushed away and rejected, unjustly accused and scapegoated for countless generations. Therefore, it is our moral responsibility to stand up when we see such things happening to others. Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are on the rise in our country. It is imperative that we respond collectively, as standing on the sidelines and remaining silent when acts of prejudice and hatred are taking place around us is anathema to our faith.
NO MATTER WHAT OUR POLITICAL VIEWS MAY BE, the values of our faith promote a heart of kindness and empathy toward those who may need our help. Reaching out to the stranger is as central to our faith as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and tending to the needs of the poor.
It is very difficult to predict the outcome of the policies that are currently unfolding, but one thing we know for certain is that the implementation of these policies is generating some very real human concerns that need to be addressed. As Jews, we must be ready to respond with kindness and compassion. Interfaith work has always been central to the mission of HCRJ, and in the coming months we will inform you of opportunities to make a difference. The rabbinical community of the City of Houston is in the process of joining forces with churches, mosques and social service organizations throughout the city as we seek ways to build a unified force in the human effort to take care of each other NO MATTER WHAT OUR POLITICAL VIEWS MAY BE.