"We Stand for Refugees," photo by Amy Stone

“We Stand for Refugees,” photo by Amy Stone

Rain, sleet, slush under foot, lower Manhattan’s tall buildings cloaked in fog.

Undeterred, hundreds of men, women and children turned out for the Day of Jewish Action for Refugees called by HIAS this past Sunday (Feb. 12).  The rally was one of some dozen across the country.

I was unprepared for my emotional response – unlike anything I felt at the Women’s March in Washington. Tears triggered by the middle-aged woman silently holding a sign with the childhood passport picture of her mother – it could have been Anne Frank. And the message: Donald Trump, This is my mom, with her swastika covered passport. Germany 1937. Would you let her in? Jewish Values. American Values. We stand up for refugees.

The rally in Battery Park was just across the harbor from the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. But the anchoring landmark was Castle Clinton, where HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) welcomed Jews to America in 1881. HIAS has gone on to help settle newcomers to America regardless of where they come from or what they believe.  

In the words of HIAS VP Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, “For the first time in history, the Jewish people are not refugees. We are a free and empowered people in America and around the world. And we have a role to play – a responsibility we must live up to. We are called by our mandate to welcome the stranger and to love the stranger. In cities across the country today, Jews are holding rallies, vigils and actions. Together, we are raising our voices up to say that we must keep our doors open to people who are fleeing for their lives.” 

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