I just got back from the March for America in Washington, DC organized by Reform Immigration for America. Two hundred thousand people of all different colors, ages, backgrounds, languages and nationalities shouting “si se puede, yes we can” to the possibility of bringing comprehensive immigration reform to America. [UPDATED – with Park Board figures]
Minnesota’s very own Rabbi Morris Allen (of Beth Jacob Congregation in Mendota Heights) was the Jewish speaker at the opening of the event, joining Christian and Muslim leaders from around the world to stand up for immigration reform from their various religious perspectives.
Here is the video of Rabbi Allen’s invocation:
Rabbi Allen provided me with the text of his original speech (the final was cut slightly). Here it is. May we all be inspired to be the change we wish to see in the world.
Standing here today, in front of each and every one of you, I find myself believing that the message of Passover has arrived a week earlier than it was intended. For when Jews sit down to their Seder tables a week from tomorrow, we will open our Seder book the Haggadah and there we will read “Chayav adam lirot et atzmo kiilu hu yatza mimitzrayim—it is incumbent on each person to personally see themselves as if they themselves had emerged out of Egypt.”
For the Jewish community understands, that the story of Passover is the story of the first group of migrant workers who reclaimed their dignity, who restored their identity and who no longer needed to hide in shame their message of hope and opportunity.
Today we have gathered on this mall to remind the world that the story of Passover is not over. Its enduring message demands that you and I stand firm in insuring that we never forget that at its heart the Hebrew scriptures teaches one lesson over and over again some36 times to be exact “you shall not oppress a stranger; for you know the heart of a stranger, seeing you were strangers in the land of Egypt”
We as Jews stand united today in understanding that our own story is one of living either on one side of that statement’s equation or the other—the one who must be remembering or the one who must be remembered. My grandparents fled the ravages of eastern Europe at the turn of the twentieth century. They sought hope and haven and simply an opportunity to build lives of meaning and of purpose.
Today their presence is evident as is the collective presence of my ancestors of generations long gone, for each of them has transmitted to me and to us all that the moral imperative of welcoming the stranger and in the process creating a fellow citizen is at the heart of tradition that I represent.
Today we stand united in our belief that absent Comprehensive immigration reform that the story of Passover and the possibility of truly completing the seder itself is still not possible. Freedom is Judaism. Passover is not 3,000 years old. It is today, and we are part of it. And this why hundreds of thousands of Jews from all over the country have come together around We Were Strangers Too: The National Jewish Campaign for Immigration Reform led by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs in Chicago, and Jewish Community Action in MN of which I am proudly a member. We have met with congressional leaders, gathered thousands of signatures urging reform, educated and organized Jews in synagogues to help pass CIR, and participated in interfaith rallies and marches.
Immigration reform is a priority for the Jewish community. My own organization, the Rabbinical Assembly is united in its support for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
Today you and I have but one task—to remind the members of Congress and the hearts of all Americans that unless we pass true immigration reform, God’s dream for how we are to live in this world will never be realized. Chayav adam lirot et atzmo kiilu hu yatza mimitzrayim—it is incumbent upon you and me today to see ourselves as if we had come forth from Egypt—and in so doing insuring that never again will an immigrant feel the coldness of a society in the turning of our backs on them.
May God bless us in our work, and may we bless God by committing to our work.
(Photo: Reform Immigration for America)