As many of you know, I’m deeply committed to nurturing pluralism. I believe that diverse voices engaged in productive, respectful dialogue form the foundation of an engaging, welcoming community. For the past several weeks, I’ve focused most of my writings and teachings on the need to bring civility, compassion and kindness into our political conversations. I’ll continue to do whatever I can to foster these strengths in our congregation and the larger community.
Because of my commitment to pluralism, coupled with the divisive political climate in which we find ourselves, I’ve intentionally avoided sharing many of my own thoughts on the issues facing our nation right now. I’ve done so because I’ve not wanted to add to the negativity out there nor have inaccurate assumptions made about me. But, today, I’m going to share. I do so not because I question the legitimacy of the Trump presidency, not because I want President Trump to fail and not to support a particular party, organization or cause. I do so as an American who wants this new administration, our entire government and our nation to succeed. I do so as a Jew who is taught that I’m obligated to give toch’acha (respectful, constructive rebuke) when I see someone make a poor choice. I do so as a Jewish American who is well aware that our nation’s refusal to accept Jewish refugees in the past led to the murder of many of our own.
President Trump has a responsibility to ensure that our nation is safe and secure. Given this, the President, in consultation with the appropriate agencies, has the obligation to both strengthen our borders and the vetting process of those seeking to enter our country. As Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham stated yesterday, “we must do so in a way that makes us safer and upholds all that is decent and exceptional about our nation.”
I supported President Obama’s decision to place travel restrictions on those seeking entrance into the United States from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen (read more here) – the same countries that President Trump focused on in his Executive Order – Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States.
I was deeply concerned at the way in which this Executive Order was implemented. To quote Senators McCain and Graham again: “It is clear from the confusion at our airports across the nation that President Trump’s executive order was not properly vetted. We are particularly concerned by reports that this order went into effect with little to no consultation with the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security.”
I was even more concerned that in an interview that aired last night (click here to watch the interview), President Trump stated that he would give priority to Christian refugees over Muslim refugees. While I’m not a Constitutional scholar, it’s my understanding that the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits government action that unduly favors one religion over another. It’s one thing to expand upon the limitations that President Obama’s administration placed on the seven countries listed above. It’s another thing to violate the Constitution. As a religious leader in America, I must express my concern about this.
I ask each of us to stay up to date on what’s going on in our country. Get the facts. Ask questions. Share your concerns with your elected leaders. Respectfully talk with each other. It’s okay to disagree – but, to quote from the principles of one of my favorite rabbinic organizations, Rabbis Without Borders, always “strive to be aware of the partial truth in a view with which” you disagree.
Rabbi Andrew Jacobs