Last Saturday night, Jan. 28, the Baltimore Jewish Council released a statement condemning President Donald Trump’s executive order blocking the entry of refugees from seven Muslim-majority nations into the United States.

The BJC is the political and community relations arm of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

The Jan. 27 executive order, which included refugees from war-torn Syria, would be in effect for at least 90 days and gives priority to Christian refugees and members of other minority religious groups over Muslims.

Local and national Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations and congregations have condemned the order.

Madeline Suggs, the BJC’s director of public affairs, said the agency’s decision to issue the statement came after discussion between BJC staff and executive committee members in the wake of the president’s order.

Acknowledging that the U.S. must be “concerned foremost with protecting its own citizens and borders,” the statement emphasized that it is the BJC’s belief that “strict enforcement of existing security procedures” will achieve those goals.

“Many Jewish Americans know firsthand the difficulties their relatives endured in trying to escape religious and political persecution abroad and resettle their families to a place where they could live in safety,” the statement said. “We know the tragic stories of those who were denied access to the United States due to immigration bans of Jewish refugees in the 1940s. We believe the United States has a moral and historical obligation to create a welcoming environment for individuals and families looking to start a new life after suffering atrocities in their native countries.”

Howard Libit

BJC Executive Director Howard Libit said the council’s leadership felt strongly compelled to address the president’s order.

“The Jewish people have been refugees many times in our history and have suffered when other countries have turned us away,” he said. “We understand the need for security, but a blanket ban is the wrong approach. We are particularly concerned by an order that seems to target a specific group.

“In the 1930s and 1940s, too many others stayed silent [about Nazi persecution],” he said. “We are pleased that institutions associated with other religious faiths have also spoken out.”

Libit noted that this was not the first time that the BJC issued statements about “religious persecution.”

“We have a tradition of doing so,” he said. “If you go back in our history, in 2015, we issued a couple of statements that spoke out against banning Syrian immigration to the U.S. On issues like this, it is too important to stay silent.”

Top Photo: Tal and Miri Zlotnitsky, with their son, Jacob, left, hold up a poster welcoming Muslim arrivals at Dulles International Airport in Virginia on Jan. 28. (Ron Kampeas)

Bottom Photo: Baltimore Jewish Council Executive Director Howard Libit

 

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