Concerning Syrian Refugees



Fully 36 times, Torah calls Jews to help “the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the stranger.” Refugees of war-torn Syria, fleeing the violence of religious and tribal warfare, are all of these. As Jews, we must help: Jews bear history’s imprint of the homeless refugee, collective victims of political barbarism.  For Jews not to help is to betray our history and miss a chance to redeem our history: we are to love these people, for we were strangers in the land of Egypt (Deut. 10:19).

It is doubly incumbent on Jews – who ourselves descend from refugees fleeing war and extermination – to aid our Syrian cousins at this time. Maimonides taught that the highest form of tzedakah (charity) is to help another find a job so that one breaks free of needing charity (Mishneh Torah, Matanot Aniyim 10:7).  Maybe even higher than charity that unshackles another economically is charity that unshackles another spiritually – charity that not only meets gripping economic need, but also loosens the grip of hatred and bigotry.

Against this backdrop, we note with dismay the emerging U.S. political opposition to Syrian refugee resettlement.  Because there is currently no reasonable basis much less evidence to conclude that a general policy of resettling Syrian refugees in the U.S. would pose a public security risk, emerging U.S. opposition to refugee resettlement appears motivated not by legitimate concerns about public safety but by xenophobia.  Moreover, because immigration and foreign policy are federal matters as a matter of constitutional law, there is no legitimate legal or political basis for state and local public officials – who comprise the overwhelming majority of these political opponents to refugee resettlement – to take these political positions, much less with the vitriol often characterizing those political positions.  We therefore conclude that the primary purpose of anti-resettlement political discourse is to stoke public fear for overtly political purposes.  This tactic poisons public discourse at the expense of the most vulnerable – conduct that is illegitimate, un-American and inconsistent with Jewish law and values.

Principles of Jewish Renewal call us not only to hospitality and loving others as ourselves, but also to doing so in ways that intentionally and demonstrably transcend real and perceived boundaries of race, ethnicity, nationality, tribe, religion and political affiliation.  Faith, spirit and political discourse cannot be exclusionary or triumphal if they are to be inwardly and outwardly real.  Current opposition to refugee resettlement is exactly that – exclusionary and triumphal, based on boundaries of ethnicity, nationality, tribe, religion and political affiliation.  Our values and lived commitments compel us to say so and act against it. Accordingly, it is

RESOLVED by the ALEPH Board of Directors:

  1. In the world of Assiyah (action), we urge the United States and public officials to meet the emergent needs of Syrian refugees with open arms, not closed doors; and we call on ALEPH and Renewal congregations, communities, spiritual leaders, teachers, students and supporters to demonstrate support for Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States, to donate funds and time to this important moral cause, and if possible to host or assist others in hosting Syrian refugees in their home communities and synagogues.

  2. In the world of Yetzirah (emotion), we urge the United States and public officials to respond to the needs of Syrian refugees with open hearts and compassion, recalling that the United States and the Jewish people both are collectivities of immigrants.  The United States must never again close its heart or doors to refugees – as was United States policy against European Jewry before and during World War II.

  3. In the world of Briyah (thought), we urge the United States and public officials to reject xenophobia, and to reject forms of politics that cultivate or feed xenophobia.

  4. In the world of Atzilut (spirit), we urge the United States and public officials – and all ALEPH and Renewal congregations, communities, spiritual leaders, students and supporters – to uplift spiritual values common to Judaism and our cousin ethical pathways, to demonstrably love others as ourselves, because all of us flow from the divine image that we feebly call God.


For this political resolution bearing on public policy, ALEPH Board co-chair David Markus is recused for reasons of judicial ethics.  See 22 NYCRR (R. Chief Adm. J.) 100.3(B)(8).

Image by Mstyslav Chernov (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons