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August 2018 - Message from the Rabbi

rabbi gary mazoShalom!

This has been anything but a "sleepy summer" at TABI. Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, One God One Community programs, Interfaith prayer services, Shabbat Under the Stars and more. One of the highlights was our participation in the Sabbath Against Separation which was observed by more than 20 congregations in Evansville.

The weekend of sermons and prayers in the hope of reunifying children with their parents at the border culminated in a community-wide interfaith prayer service at TABI. There were approximately 350 people in attendance; Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists, those with no faith...it was a true representation of our community. Every seat was filled in the Sanctuary, expansion room and even the "crying" room was packed.

Speaker after speaker (mostly clergy) stressed that the issue was not a political one – but a human one. We each taught from our own sacred scriptures the messages of our faith with regards to immigration, welcoming, nurturing and caring for the "other" in our midst. While not my complete remarks, the highlights of my thoughts are below:

"One of the values integral to Judaism is Hachnasot Orchim- welcoming the stranger. Welcoming the stranger has always been part of Judaism. In the Book of Genesis, we hear of Abraham, the first Jew, who was sitting in the entrance of his tent, when three strangers passed by. He immediately invited them in and treated them like royalty— preparing a meal for them himself, not even letting his servants do it for him.

There is a natural human tendency to take care of our own, and to be wary or afraid of "the other."The mitzvah of welcoming the stranger is, in part, a counterbalance to this reflex. It reminds us that this person, whom I do not know is, among other things, a human being. And that means that they were created in the image of God. The moment I encounter him or her, I have an obligation to him or her. There is no one — not a single, solitary person — from whom I can completely turn away, and to whom I have no obligation.

We Jews have been the victims of restrictions on our own migrations for centuries. We’ve fled persecution and been told, time and again, "you're not welcome here." Even when others were trying to wipe our people off the map, we've been told to "go somewhere else. Just not here."

We are a people of immigrants in a nation of immigrants. It is our repeated memory of being a stranger in a strange land which is supposed to drive our moral dedication to helping others to never feel like strangers themselves. Or, as it says in Leviticus (19:33-34), "When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."

Because we were strangers, we know how it feels. And so, we are commanded to help other strangers. We have an obligation to immigrants not in spite of the fact that they are strangers, but precisely because of it.

It is said that the measure of a society is in how it takes care of those who are in need. Our borders are filled with people in need who deserve a fair and human response. Let it be our collective prayer that the legislative process will produce a just immigration system of which our nation of immigrants, and we Jews - a people of immigrants - can be proud.


Gary A. Mazo, Rabbi