11 Jewish groups join call urging Congress to accept Syrian refugees

Related Stories:

Eleven Jewish groups are among 81 signers on a letter urging members of Congress not to roll back plans to accept Syrian refugees.

“To turn our back on refugees would be to betray our nation’s core values,” said the letter, which was initiated by HIAS and sent on Nov. 17 as Congress began considering measures to block the Obama administration’s plans to bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year. “It would send a demoralizing and dangerous message to the world that the United States makes judgments about people based on the country they come from and their religion.”

Refugees board a ferry for Athens, Greece, in August. photo/jta-getty images-milos bicanski

In addition to HIAS, Jewish groups that signed the letter were the Union for Reform Judaism, National Council of Jewish Women, Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Labor Committee, Habonim Dror North America, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights and Workmen’s Circle.

Calls to stop the refugee plan have proliferated, mostly among Republicans, since the massive terrorist attack in Paris on Nov. 13. There is evidence that one of the attackers might have slipped in with the refugees flooding Europe, though Germany’s top security expert said a passport carried by one of the attackers could have been a ploy to stoke fears. A majority of state governors, almost all Republican, have said their states will not accept or provide services to war refugees, although states have little say in where refugees are settled.

Defenders of Obama’s plan say the 10,000 refugees represent a tiny fraction of the millions of refugees created by Syria’s 5-year-old civil war, as well as the nearly 300,000 refugees Europe is absorbing. Additionally, they note that while Europe, flooded with boatloads of asylum seekers, is taking in refugees on an ad hoc basis, refugees applying for U.S. asylum must undergo months of review.

“These are all vetted, carefully interviewed applicants,” said Mark Hetfield, director of HIAS, which is working to settle some of the refugees. “There are easier ways for a terrorist to get into this country.”

A statement by the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center called on Congress “to oppose any effort to limit the acceptance of Syrian refugees, just as we urge public officials and figures across the U.S. to reject divisive and inflammatory statements that do not reflect our history as a nation founded by descendants of those who fled persecution in search of freedom.” — jta