Why Jews Should Be Outraged by the Migrant Crisis

by Guest Author, September 3, 2015

By guest author: Victoria Stacey

The photographs capture the haunting images. The pained expressions, the anguished mothers clutching their babies as they run for their lives. They are climbing over razor-wire fences, and boarding dilapidated cargo ships by the tens of thousands. Those lucky enough can board trains or planes. Their clothes are tattered. Their stomachs are bloated with hunger.  The Europe-wide response to the migrant crisis has been woefully lacking solutions. In some cases, it borders on dangerous and xenophobic.  It is not 1938. It is 2015. Yet, the narrative is eerily familiar.

In August 1938, a British newspaper lamented the ongoing refugee crisis sparked by growing antisemitism. The editors wrote,  “the way stateless Jews from Germany are pouring into this country is becoming an outrage”.  It now our turn to be outraged. We should be outraged by policies that leave men, women and children dead in the hulls of abandoned ships and backs of transport trucks. We should be outraged, not  just as  Jews, but as humans.

Today at Budapest’s main train station, police and military personnel were stopping migrants from boarding trains to Germany. Refugees from Libya, Iraq, Syria, the Ivory Coast, and Eritrea sat exhausted in the sun. They were hostages of bad policies and poor preparation. Hungary is fiercely critical of illegal immigration. The country’s ruling body has linked migrants to lawlessness and terrorism. The leaders have been clear, “they are not welcomed”.  Similarly, between 1933 and 1945, Canada limited the migration of Jews. An anecdote from Irving Abella and Harold Troper’s 1983 book about Canadian Jewish history sums up sentiment at the time.  When an immigration officer was asked how many Jews would be allowed into the country; his response, “None is too many.”

Two years ago, Canada promised to resettle 13 hundred Syrian refugees. According to the Canadian Council for Refugees “fewer than 400 Syrians made a refugee claim in Canada in the 18 months from January 2012 to June 2013”. Nearly 4 million Syrians are living in camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Tens of thousands more are making their way to Hungary, Germany, France, and the U.K.  Can we not do more? What about the tens of thousands migrants from  North African countries desperate for stability and opportunity?  The overwhelming response to the crisis is all too similar to the refugee crisis during WWII. Anti-Immigration policy and sentiment is shutting down borders and closing down dialogue.  How can we watch as children are turned back to countries run by gangs, thugs and despots. How can we turn away ships of desperate people, when we know all too well what their fate will be?  Today I saw a photograph of a Syrian toddler. His lifeless body washed up on a beach. The image broke me. I have a daughter the same age. She is well-fed, warm, and safe. She deserves this. So do all children.

On Sundays I teach my grade five class about Jewish values and history. I talk endlessly about Mitvot and Tzedekah. We discuss “doing the right thing” and what it means to be a righteous person. We talk about how courageous Jews worked for civil rights and helped to change unfair working conditions. We talk about a Jew’s responsibility to show hospitality (hakhnasat orchim ). I teach, but I don’t always act.  The holidays are almost upon us. This year, I will make this issue a priority. I will write my MP. I will dedicate our tzedekah box to the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief and Save the Children. I will continue to talk about what is happening.  I ask you to consider doing the same.


Solel occasionally publishes articles by guest authors which we believe may be of interest to our members. The views expressed above are those of the author and may not necessarily represent any official policy or position of Solel Congregation of Mississauga. Guest articles are reproduced with the permission of the author.

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