To this country, in whose promise we still believe, to the millions of people who are outraged and horrified, and especially to the thousands of children who have been separated from their families, we declare our nation to be in a state of moral emergency.
This Administration has established border policies unprecedented in their scope and cruelty, that are inflicting physical, mental, and emotional harm on immigrants and punishing those seeking refuge at our borders.
We are anguished by the stories and images of desperate parents torn from their babies and detention facilities packed with children. We shudder with the knowledge that these inhumane policies are committed in our name, and we lift our voices in protest.
The Jewish community, like many others, knows all too well what it looks like for a government to criminalize the most vulnerable, to lie and obfuscate to justify grossly immoral practices under the banner of “the law,” to interpret holy scripture as a cover for human cruelty, to normalize what can never be made normal. We have seen this before.
When crying children are taken from their parents’ arms, the American Jewish community must not remain silent.
To those who are targeted by these cruel policies, know that the Jewish community hears your cries. We will take risks to support you, and we will demand that our nation’s leaders take action. We will not abide the claim that people didn’t know or understand the extent of your suffering; we will not allow your torment to be in vain.
Our government can persist in this inhumane behavior only if good people remain silent.
And so we declare a state of moral emergency, and we rise to meet this moment. Even as our democratic institutions are under duress, we raise our voices and take decisive action. United by the wisdom of our tradition, we stand with immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, with the children, and with their parents. We declare: Not here. Not now. Not in our name.
Stosh Cotler, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Rabbi Sharon Brous, IKAR
Rabbi Jill Jacobs, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Mark Hetfield, HIAS
Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL
Note: In 1963, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel sent a telegram to President Kennedy about the crisis of civil rights in this country, proposing he declare a “state of moral emergency… the hour calls for high moral grandeur and spiritual audacity.” Inspired by Heschel’s words, we declare this state of moral emergency ourselves.