Major American Jewish religious streams back continued refugee settlement


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Umbrella bodies for the major American Jewish religious streams have urged the United States to continue to accept Syrian refugees.

A statement Friday by the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly backing the continued settlement of the refugees means that there is cross-denominational support in the community for the Obama administration’s plan to settle 10,000 refugees in the United States over the next year.

“As we discuss the future of Syrian refugees in the United States, we must be mindful not to blame all for the sins of the relative few,” the statement said, alluding to reports that perpetrators of the Nov. 13 massive terrorist attack in Paris included terrorists who had slipped into Europe among refugees. “We cannot turn our backs on innocent individuals fleeing the violence that is tearing apart their homeland.”

The Religious Action Center of the Reform movement and the Orthodox Union issued statements earlier in the week. All three statements likened the plight of the refugees to German Jews seeking refuge from the Nazis in the 1930s.

“As a Jewish people, we have a unique perspective on how discrimination and fear of the other can lead to violence,” the Rabbinical Assembly statement said. “We can sadly remember all too well the Jews who were turned away when they sought refuge in the United States on the eve of, and during, World War II.”

The statements, and the inclusion of 11 Jewish advocacy groups among 81 faith based groups pleading with Congress early last week to safeguard the program, present an almost unanimous organized Jewish community favoring accepting the refugees.

Despite such pleas, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to pause the Obama administration’s program, which would admit 10,000 refugees from the hundreds of thousands stranded in Europe and from the more than two million created by Syria’s civil war. U.S. authorities subject refugee applicants to months of vetting.

The Rabbinical Assembly statement, like that of the Orthodox Union, supported thorough screening of refugee applicants.

“This is a time for our political leaders to come together to reevaluate and devise the best plan possible to, first and foremost, keep us safe but also provide shelter for refugees,” it said. “There is a balance here that we must reach.”

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