President Donald Trump has promoted an atmosphere of fear and discrimination in our country. Seemingly every week we learn new information about horrific human rights violations being committed against refugees and asylum-seekers who come to our borders. Families are torn apart, homes are raided, and people are detained and held in unsafe and inhumane conditions without being given due process under the law.
As members of the National Council of Jewish Women Greater New Orleans Section, we join with our national NCJW affiliates in expressing our outrage and disgust at the cruel way the Trump Administration treats immigrants. NCJW is a grassroots organization of volunteers and advocates who turn progressive ideals into action. Our national affiliates will be commemorating this miscarriage of justice on Aug. 11, together with partner organizations in Washington, D.C. in observance of Tisha B'Av, the major day of communal mourning in the Jewish calendar.
We are progressive Jewish women, we are local nonprofit and business leaders, and we are immigrants and the descendants of refugees who came to this country to flee persecution. Several of our members in the Greater New Orleans area are immigrants and Holocaust survivors. Our community carries the scars of these atrocities against humanity and we are sickened to see our own country treating asylum-seekers this way.
The treatment of asylum-seekers at our borders feels eerily reminiscent of what Jews have seen before: people forced to hide in the shadows, afraid to leave their homes for fear of being rounded up; children torn from parents, sent to distant corners of the country with no way to communicate with each other; thousands of people denied bond and legal recourse, held in overcrowded, unsanitary, and inhumane detention centers. These actions are illegal, hateful, and do not reflect the American ideals with which we were raised.
Trump’s latest attempt to effectively eliminate all asylum protections for most migrants who arrive at our southern border reminds us of our own tragic history seeking asylum in the United States. In 1939, the S.S. St. Louis — a ship full of European Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust — arrived in Florida. Although the cruelty against Jews in Hitler's Europe were well known to American authorities, the more than 900 asylum-seekers were turned away, and forced to return to Europe. Upon their return, many of these asylum-seekers had no safe place to go, resulting in the murder of 254 of those same Jewish refugees in Hitler’s death camps.
When we read the news and see images of Central American asylum-seekers and refugees being turned away at our border, denied due process, and packed into detention centers indefinitely, we remember the S.S. St. Louis. We will not stand by silently, and we will not be complicit with these atrocities. As Jews, we are committed to keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust; we are taught Never Again — never again will our people accept the decimation of human rights that we faced in the Holocaust. We see these egregious assaults on human rights and rule of law and are reminded of the terror and genocide our ancestors faced. As Jews who are now living in freedom, we bear the responsibility to protect immigrants and refugees in our own country and ensure that history is not repeated.
board members, National Council of Jewish Women Greater New Orleans Section