A Blessing Amidst the Immigration Crisis

A Blessing Amidst the Immigration Crisis

Tonight, I’d like to thank the Mid-Island JCC for hosting and sponsoring this event. Thank you to all of the event’s sponsors, including the Anti-Defamation League, the UJA-Federation, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Holocaust Memorial, and Tolerance Center, The Plainview Old Bethpage Interfaith Clergy Council, and the Interfaith Clergy Council of Syosset, Woodbury and Surrounding Neighborhoods.

I’d like to thank all of the congregations who participated, and all of the inspiring leaders and speakers we heard from this evening. But above all, I thank all of you for being here tonight for an evening of communal prayer.

In this room are people of different faiths, beliefs, and backgrounds. We are people of different colors, languages, and cultures, and each one of us is a sacred part of one unified community.

We have gathered tonight because we understand that our differences are not obstacles; they are assets. That we are a country of immigrants, each of us with a story about our family’s journey to the United States of America, some of us with stories of loved ones who were turned away.

We are here because we recognize that whether citizen, immigrant, or asylum seeker, we are all created in the image of God. We know that no child should be ripped away from his parents at the border and taken to tender age camps. We know that no parent should wait weeks, praying to hear their child’s voice again, wondering where she is and if they will ever be reunited. We are here tonight because we know that families belong together. And we know that the only way that will happen is if we raise our voices in a choir of morality and justice.

There is a story in the Jewish Canon about Rabbi Akiva and his students. They were traveling by boat when they came upon a devastating storm. The winds blew, the waters raged. Their tiny wooden was no match for the wind and torrential downpour; It quickly shattered into pieces.

The scholars fell into the water, waves pounding against their faces. Rabbi Gamliel, from a distance, saw the boat capsize, and immediately began to grieve. Surely there was no way they could safely reach the shore.

Miraculously, Rabbi Akiva appeared three days later, at the academy, along with his students. Rabbi Gamliel was in awe. He asked, “How did you all survive the storm?”

Rabbi Akiva responded, “When the storm hit and the sky thundered and the seas raged and our ship broke apart, I grabbed on to a piece of wood with one hand and to a student with the other. We faced each torrential wave before us, we never let go, we never gave up our focus to reach the shore”[1]

My friends, we too are in the midst of a storm, and the only way to reach the shore is by holding on to one another, facing each torrential wave together, and by never- ever giving up our focus.

God of our mothers and our fathers, of our children and our babies, our citizens, immigrants, and asylum seekers, give us the courage to demand more of our nation, of our leaders, and of ourselves, the moral audacity to look into the stranger’s eyes and see the divine spark within to speak out against suffering and indifference God of mercy, and of compassion we are your sacred partners. May we keep gathering as one holy community, embracing human dignity together. Kein Yehi Ratzon. May this be God’s will.


[1] As told by Rabbi Michael Adam Latz in his book Spiritual Resistance: Hope for Today, p.23