This blog post is excerpted from the prepared remarks shared on Friday, June 21, 2013 by Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk, Senior Rabbi of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in a meeting with Ohio Senator Rob Portman, convened together with Rabbi Rick Block (CCAR President and Senior Rabbi of The Temple – Tifereth Israel in Cleveland, Ohio), Rabbi Lewis Kamrass (Senior Rabbis of Isaac M. Wise Temple of Cincinnati, Ohio), and a broad coalition of supporters of comprehensive immigration reform in the US. Coalition partners included: HOLA, NAACP, Global Cleveland, American Nursery Alliance, University Hospital, National Latino Evangelical Churches, Hispanic Roundtable, Huntington Bank and America’s Voice each conveyed their support to the Senator of the current bill before the Senate. Partners in the Jewish community included the American Jewish Committee board leadership who also contributed abundantly to the success of the meeting in terms of the Jewish community voice to Senator Portman.
Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk and Rabbi Rick Block, who serves as President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and Rabbi Lewis Kamrass, spoke emphatically and in solidarity with other many Ohio rabbis and the Rabbis Organizing Rabbis affiliate within the Central Conference of American Rabbis. They each urged Senator Portman about the stakes seen in this moment to change in the current system, and the desire of Jewish American citizens to see progress made. Rabbi Rick Block urged the Senator to not see the “perfect” as the enemy of the “good” in his deliberations on the bill and to take steps to assure its passage. In addition, Joy Friedman, Senior Organizer from Just Congregations, a division of the Union for Reform Judaism joined these rabbis at the meeting and offered resources and data points to the Senator about substantial support within the Reform Jewish movement nationally.
Senator Portman, my name is Rob Nosanchuk. I am Senior Rabbi of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple and I am here with Rabbi Rick Block of The Temple Tifereth Israel, Rabbi Lewis Kamrass from Wise Temple in Cincinnati and Joy Friedman, of the Union for Reform Judaism. We recognize the gravity of this particular moment in the U.S. Senate. We approach you to ask that you stand in alliance with the coalition meeting with you today, in advocating strongly for a just solution to the broken U.S. immigration system.
As Jews, our heritage is one of lifting up values of justice and compassion. Our efforts to exhort are congregants as rabbis are built on the idea that Judaism emphasizes both dinand rachamim, both strictness to the law and mercy that we ask God to look upon human efforts. As Jews we believe that it is our task to approach situations in which we find no one acting with humane instincts, environments situations which defy humane understanding, and that in those environments we strive to give of our humanity.
Today our heritage over generations of immigrants leaves us to ask- what to do with the freedom we have been given? Where can we find sources to lift up justice and freedom?
But it is difficult to answer those questions. For justice can’t easily be located in today’s immigration system, which you’ve as much as agreed today is broken. It is not even a system. It is a non-system!
- There’s no fairness offered to the millions of undocumented immigrants who, because we have failed in the past to make a difference in the public square on this issue, have been living in the illegalities of society.
- There’s no goodness in the offing for the 5,000 children of immigrants forced into the foster care system.
- There’s no equality in the system for LGBT Americans who are deemed illegitimate to protect a spouse or partner the way others can.
So we as Jews and as Rabbis feel commanded to fix this broken system and do our part in helping you to lead on this issue and to fulfill the legislation once it is signed and passed. For we believe that the legislation before you, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, is a crucial way to begin to address the problems I’ve mentioned and that you’ve outlined. We believe it is consistent with the humane and compassionate ideals we write and teach about to thousands of your constituents, and we commend you on your feeling that you want a comprehensive bill, and say to you that you should vote for the most just most fair comprehensive immigration bill that is placed before you.
I remember meeting you Senator a couple of years ago at an event where we each spoke acknowledging the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. We exchanged letters after that gathering. I remember the image you spoke of that day of remembering your travel back after 9/11 to be with your family and community in Ohio. You spoke of the feeling of profound pride and unity you had while watching Ohio first responders driving on the same highway toward New York, contributing with every fiber of their being to the acts of life affirmation, of healing and saving and redeeming lives.
I have held that image with me, when I think of you. I ask you today to hold on to that feeling of unity, to remember the idea you had on 9/11 that even during those perilous days, there is nothing we cannot be responsive to as a nation when we draw from what unites us. The first responders that ran from departments across the nation to help address the crisis in New York did not wait to secure the best reimbursement system. They had no idea whether there would be any real positive outcome for their extraordinary efforts. But they knew that people in our society were in harm’s way and that a time comes to decide to get involved in promoting safety and decency and justice, no matter the price.
Senator Portman, we urge you to lead and then to exhort legislators you know in the House, to lead and pass this bill, and to address some of your specific concerns when this bill goes to a conference between the branches. For this is just such a moment. Americans are counting on our leaders to get something done, in a productive, healing, just and redemptive path. This is a moment for you Senator, to be among those first responders to a broken system and promote a path that is more just and compassionate.
Thank you for your time and for meeting with our coalition!