‘Worst fears, best hopes’ for the Trump presidency: Mark Hetfield, HIAS
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‘Worst fears, best hopes’ for the Trump presidency: Mark Hetfield, HIAS

Mark Hetfield

Mark Hetfield is the president and CEO of HIAS. (Courtesy of HIAS)

Editor’s note: The upset victory by Donald Trump in the 2016 elections stunned a Jewish activist and leadership class that is at times as divided as the electorate at large. JTA asked some of those leaders to describe their concerns and expectations in a series of brief essays, “Worst fears, best hopes,” that will appear regularly between now and Inauguration Day.

(JTA) — Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, we heard many ugly words uttered about refugees, immigrants and “others.” During this massive global refugee crisis, such rhetoric is particularly dangerous. But this was not the first time in U.S. history that we’ve witnessed the vilification of refugees – nor the first time we’ve stepped up and spoken out against it.

When is America at its strongest and best? When we have had the self-confidence to welcome refugees? Or when we turned them away out of fear?

HIAS and the American Jewish community can answer these questions from experience. Jews in America owe our very existence to the generosity that this country has shown refugees. At the same time, we will never forget the deadly consequences our family members faced when “the golden door” was closed to those fleeing Nazi Europe.

In the days and weeks ahead, we will take every opportunity to ensure that America welcomes refugees and stands for human rights across the globe.

The HIAS community – our local refugee resettlement partners, our supporters, our network of thousands of rabbis and more than 220 synagogues, and most significantly, the many thousands of refugees we help – is dedicated to continuing America’s tradition of welcoming and protecting refugees.

Refugees revitalize neighborhoods, start businesses, support families, pursue education and become new Americans. They have made this country strong.

For over 135 years, HIAS has worked to welcome the stranger and protect the refugee, regardless of the political climate. We intend to work with the Trump administration to ensure that this tradition continues.

(Mark Hetfield is president and CEO of HIAS.)

Previous articles in this series can be found here.