Jewish groups add their voices to protest immigration ban

Protestors rally during a demonstration against the new immigration ban issued by President Donald Trump at John F. Kennedy International Airport on January 28, 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
Protesters rally against the new immigration ban issued by President Trump at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City Saturday night. (Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

President Trump’s executive order halting the admission of refugees to the United States for 120 days and temporarily barring entry of citizens from seven majority-Muslim nations was condemned by leaders of Jewish organizations as protests swelled at U.S. international airports where refugees, tourists and longtime U.S. resident green card holders alike were detained and denied entry.

That the executive order had been issued on a day when the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust and their descendants marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day intensified the outrage, as the vast majority of Jewish families originally came to the United States as refugees from religious persecution.

“The fact that President Trump’s order appears designed to specifically limit the entry of Muslims evokes horrible memories among American Jews of the shameful period leading up to World War II, when the United States failed to provide a safe haven for the vast majority of Jews in Europe trying to escape Nazi persecution,” the progressive pro-Israel group J Street said in a statement Friday. “President Trump’s decision to suspend the U.S. refugee program is a profound affront to our values as Americans and as Jews.”

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, went even further in a Saturday evening tweet, writing, “Yesterday’s EO will be remembered with Dred Scott and WWII internment of Japanese Americans as gov actions most antithetical to Amer. Values.”

Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, called the executive order “a travesty” and vowed to “resist” it directly.

“Turning away refugees and immigrants seeking safety and opportunity goes against all of our basic values,” she said from John F. Kennedy International Airport, where she had come together with thousands of New Yorkers in a flash protest Saturday evening. “These policies will tear apart lives, families and communities. People’s lives are at stake. We pledge to do everything to protect and defend people’s rights and call on our elected officials to do the same.”

Also planning to speak at the Kennedy International Airport protest were representatives for Jews for Racial & Economic Justice.

“History will look back on this order as a sad moment in American history — the time when the president turned his back on people fleeing for their lives,” said Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt in a statement on the refugee order Friday. “For the Sunni family whose son languishes in prison in Iran because of his faith, for the former Army translator in Iraq who has been threatened because of his service, LGBT youth in Yemen terrorized because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, for the widows and orphans caught between the barrel bombs of [Bashar] Assad’s regime and the unparalleled brutality of ISIS, this executive order could very well be a death sentence.”

Friday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In a break with tradition, the White House statement for the day honored “victims, survivors and heroes of the Holocaust” without mentioning Jews specifically. On Saturday evening, CNN reported that administration spokeswoman Hope Hicks explained the omission was intentional, saying, “Despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group, and we took into account all of those who suffered.”

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