As the world is still trying to understand how to respond to the horrific attacks in Paris, many Americans are grappling with the devastation and fear that these events have created in our hearts and minds. Fear is a powerful force and can inspire people to do and say things that would be unimaginable in another context.
However, we are deeply concerned by how quickly the conversation shifted from compassion and sympathy for our friends in Paris to suspicion and bigotry toward Syrian refugees. Where is the compassion for the refugees who have been threatened by violent extremism in Syria? How can we allow ourselves to be overtaken so much by fear that we fail to extend to the refugees the same compassion we extend to our European friends and allies?
This discussion took an even more disturbing tone this week as candidates for president raised ideas such as creating a registry for all Muslims in America. This proposition is especially alarming for members of the Jewish community who understand what it means to register people of a certain religion. There is no justification for taking this kind of action against Muslims or any other religious group.
We must remember the words of Martin Niemoeller:
“First, they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then, they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then, they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”
We are compelled by our faith and our history to speak out against this hateful and abhorrent kind of rhetoric. We urge others to join us.
National Council of Jewish Women, Greater New Orleans Section
Bend the Arc: New Orleans