More than 1,000 American rabbis have signed a letter addressing Congress, requesting lawmakers to “exercise moral leadership” and not turn away the 10,000 Syrian refugees currently scheduled to be relocated to the U.S.
The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society wrote the letter and delivered it to congress on Dec. 2. Expressing moral outrage after seeing “so many politicians declaring their opposition to welcome refugees,” the rabbis liken the plight of the Syrian refugees to the Jews fleeing Europe during World War II.
“In 1939, the United States refused to let the S.S. St. Louis dock in our country, sending over 900 Jewish refugees back to Europe, where many died in concentration camps,” the letter states. “That moment was a stain on the history of our country — a tragic decision made in a political climate of deep fear, suspicion, and antisemitism.”
The HIAS letter acknowledges that many Americans are afraid of the Syrian refugees following the Nov. 13 Paris attack, but also warns that making decisions based on fear will lead to “one of the darker moments of our history repeating itself.”
The letter acknowledges that Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust were not welcomed by Americans, reminding lawmakers that “the majority of U.S. citizens did not want to welcome Jewish refugees to this country in those years.”
A Nov. 23 poll released by Gallup shows only 37 percent of Americans favor accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees after the Paris terrorist attack, with 60 percent opposing.
Gallup also includes past polls stretching back to WW II, including a 1946 survey when only 26 percent of Americans wanted to accept European refugees, including Jews, fleeing the devastation of the war, with 67 percent opposing.
The U.S. House has been passing legislation designed to halt the Syrian refugee resettlement program, although President Barack Obama has vowed to veto any attempts to bar refugees from entry, NPR reports.
“In 1939, our country could not tell the difference between an actual enemy and the victims of an enemy,” the HIAS letter states. “In 2015, let us not make the same mistake."