Spurred the horrific attacks in Paris last month, the House reacted quickly, voting on a bill to tighten the already-arduous screenings on Syrian refugees looking to resettle in the U.S. The move drew heavy criticism from President Obama and many groups, including the Jewish charity organization HIAS, which helps resettle refugees in the U.S. In a HIAS letter urging lawmakers to welcome Syrian refugees, 1,000 rabbis called on them to "exercise moral leadership" to protect the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
The letter invoked the plight of Jewish people fleeing persecution in Europe in the 20th century, only to be turned away by the U.S. "Last month's heartbreaking attacks in Paris and Beirut are being cited as reasons to deny entry to people who are themselves victims of terror," the letter read. "And in those comments, we, as Jewish leaders, see one of the darker moments of our history repeating itself."
Carrying the signatures of more than 1,000 rabbis from across the country, the letter adds a significant voice to the debate on resettling Syrian refugees in the U.S. And it's not the only one — another letter by several Christian groups, including evangelical churches and Hispanic Christian leaders, exhorted lawmakers to show "compassion and hospitality" to refugees.
The fear of allowing Syrian — Muslim — refugees into the U.S. is one exacerbated by growing Islamophobia, thanks in no small part to outrageous political rhetoric. However, after the grisly shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., which officials are still investigating, many signs point to increasing hostility toward Muslims in America, a sentiment unfortunately encouraged by some in the media, too.
But such reactionary fear has dire consequences. The HIAS letter issued a grave reminder of America's past:
In 1939, our country could not tell the difference between an actual enemy and the victims of an enemy. In 2015, let us not make the same mistake.
Cover image via Lukasz Z / Shutterstock.com