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Protesting ICE in Goshen, NY

07/03/2019 12:31:32 PM


Rabbi Brent Spodek

One of the simplest and most demanding teachings of the Jewish tradition comes from Rabbi Tarfon, who teaches לא עליך המלאכה לגמור, ולא אתה בן חורין ליבטל ממנה - it is not your obligation to finish the work, but neither are you free to do nothing. In other words, there are times when you may not succeed in the way you want, but you can never, ever give up.

At moments like these, it is hard to remain hopeful. 

Mounting deaths in India and France as a result of extreme and unrelenting heat waves remind us that climate change is straining the earth’s ability to support human life, and the rise of white supremacy in this area and around the world is truly terrifying. And of course, there is the cruelty and racism of our current political administration. 

I’m tempted at every moment to retreat into limitless Netflix shows. But the Talmud teaches that whoever is able to protest against the transgressions of the people of his community but does not he is held responsible for the transgressions of his community. (Shabbat 54b)

So, facing the immoral and reprehensible actions of our government agents, acting with our tax dollars and in our name, we must raise our voices in protest. 

Specifically, this coming Monday night, I invite you to come out to the ICE detention facility in Goshen, NY and let the guards and administrators who are carrying out the policies of this government know that we will not stand for the persecution of refugees. 

As Jews who celebrate the liberation of our people from Egypt, this is our legacy.

As Jews who praise the Righteous Gentiles who rescued us from Nazi Germany, even when they were not at risk, this is our inheritance. 

As Jews who are dedicated to the Torah, this is our obligation.

Rebbe Nachman teaches that there is no sin other than despair. Now, when despair beckons us, is the time to take action.

Sat, January 25 2020 28 Tevet 5780