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Canadian Jews have particular responsibility in Trump’s America

refugees welcome

As Canadians watch Trump’s many horrifying policies unfold –including broad Muslim immigration bans, an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees and the detaining of refugees – there are specific things Canadians, including members of the Jewish community, can do in response.

The first thing Canadians should do is pressure our government to fulfill its promises. Buoyed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s tweeting, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada,” Canadians are right to be proud. But that sentiment still needs to be translated into action.

Over the past few days, Rabbi Dan Moskovitz of Temple Sholom in Vancouver has convened upward of 100 clergy from all faiths across the country to petition Canada’s immigration minister to “immediately extend temporary resident visas or permits for Canada for individuals who have American visas in hand, and who are stranded at American ports of entry” due to Trump’s executive order.


Rabbi Moskovitz describes Canadian immigration policy as the “model for the world” and insists that Canada must “continue to serve as the example of goodness and decency.”

At the time of this writing, concerned citizens are awaiting the Canadian government’s response. Meanwhile, Ottawa residents are preparing to form a human chain on Jan. 30 at the American embassy.

‘If Israel is supposed to be a “light unto the nations,” it’s time to take the government to task’

The second thing Canadians can do is support U.S.-based civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union. Anybody anywhere can join (and donate to) the legendary organization, which scored a significant victory amid the throngs of protesters at airports across the United States over the weekend. ACLU lawyers managed to win a temporary injunction against deporting anyone detained at American airports under the Muslim ban. But the work is not yet over.

The third thing Canadians – particularly those with Israel attachments – should do is shine a light on the role the Israeli government plays in intensifying global anti-refugee sentiment.

In eerie imitation of Trump’s gleeful-about-inflicting-misery communication style, a usually sober Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted on Jan. 28, “President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea.”

Especially in light of Trump’s targeting of refugees, Netanyahu’s tweet was revolting. Completed in 2013, Israel’s border fence with Egypt was built to block African asylum seekers from reaching Israel. Some 60,000 had arrived up to 2012.


“Illegal immigration” is perhaps a chilling improvement over the term Israel usually uses to describe would-be refugees from Eritrea and Sudan: “infiltrators.” Both terms are used to vilify this hurting population fleeing war and torture. As a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, Israel has openly flouted its obligations to hear asylum claims in good faith. Many of these individuals have been held in prison-like compounds in Israel’s south. Many others live in slum-like conditions in south Tel Aviv. If Israel is supposed to be a “light unto the nations,” it’s time to take the government to task. Canadians can also support the Israeli NGO Hotline, which was founded to protect the rights of refugees, migrant workers and human trafficking victims.

Canadian Jews must recall that as a historically persecuted people, we have benefited from Canada’s generosity, even if that generosity has been punctuated by too many historical instances of shame, including turning away World War II refugees, turning against Japanese-Canadians and trampling the indigenous peoples whose land we now share.

Today, we must remember that we were once strangers in the land of Egypt. As we open our arms to others in peril, we must challenge Canada to act on its pledge to welcome the refugees Trump is detaining, shaming and turning away; press Israel to fulfill the moral and legal responsibilities that it is actively shirking; and help our American brothers and sisters fight back against Trump’s cruelty.