“What is the most important rule you can learn?” My teacher posed this question to my first grade class at a Jewish day school. After busily considering ideas like “share your toys” and “only one student talks at a time,” our class quieted in anticipation of the most significant lesson we would learn: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Our teacher described this rule not just in a Jewish context, but in a context that included the rest of humanity. As a child, I understood this to mean that I needed to respect my family, my friends, and my community. As I grew older, that community expanded to include more and more aspects of a diverse world; the concept of tolerance for all became the cornerstone for how I understood Judaism and how I honor my roots.
By Rebecca Sereboff
The Jewish people know suffering. We’ve been expelled or been forced to flee from our homelands countless times. We know what it means to be alone, to be exiled, to be afraid, to be unwelcome. Because of our history, it is right and just for us to stand with those who have fled their own homes in search of opportunity and the promise of freedom.
Upon hearing of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold President Trump’s travel ban that disproportionately affects Muslim countries, my fellow JWI interns and I hurried to the Supreme Court building. United, we stood with our Muslim brothers and sisters in protest of this attack on their civil rights, freedoms, and dreams.
We listened as numerous government, faith, and thought leaders spoke, all sharing the same goal: to reaffirm the safety, dignity, and humanity of our neighbors. Senator Corey Booker of New Jersey stressed that this is not a partisan issue, and that we as Americans must “reclaim our values.” Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block of Bend the Arc reminded us that this is an issue that transcends organizational lines, and called for the crowd to not just stand with affected communities, but to act with them. Those directly affected by the travel ban shared moving stories about harrowing journeys to the United States in search of better lives and heartbreaking accounts of not being able to see loved ones again because of these new restrictions. It is a cruel power that forces a choice between freedom from oppression and danger and a life separated from those we love.
Together we can challenge this cruelty. This rally was a continuation of the fight Jews have been fighting for centuries, a fight that we now renew hand in hand with our neighbors to protect our shared humanity. Our neighbors are in distress. It is time for us to remember our own history and values and take action. Check out JWI’s latest 3, 2, 1 to see what you can do.
Rebecca is a freshman at Syracuse University studying citizenship and civic engagement. When she’s not travelling or interning at JWI you can find her on a run with someone else’s dog.