Friday, July 13, 2018

NYC Identification Cards - "I am Spartacus!"

Get your NYC ID Card today!  If you are a resident of NYC, it is free and easy, and important.  Why?  Read on. And apply here.

The recent arrest of ConcepciĆ³n and Margarito Silva's at Fort Drum should shock us all, and question the current ICE practices of the Trump Administration.  

What did they do? The came to Fort Drum to celebrate July 4th with their son-in-law, an active duty Marine, and their pregnant daughter. They presented NYC government issued I.D. cards for entry.  Fr. Drum asked for another form of I.D., as the NYC I.D. card is often used by undocumented aliens, recent prison parolees, and others who have difficulty finding an honest government i.d. document.  According to an Army spokesperson, the NYCID card does not have a scannable barcode that provides the guard with a photo to check against the person holding the card.

There is no question that the i.d. was a lawful, accurate identification document. But for some reason, Fr. Drum went further. So they showed their Mexican Passports, which did not have a legal entry stamp or visa to the U.S. But the Passports would have verified the identity found on the ID card, which the spokesman says was the concern.  Instead, ICE was called, the couple was arrested, and they remain imprisoned in Brooklyn awaiting a hearing and probably deportation.  Their U.S. citizen daughter and marine son-in-law will have to raise their baby without hardworking grandparents who have been peacefully working in this country for 20 years, because they were stupid enough to think that celebrating America's Independence day at a military base with their family was a good thing to do.

This seems to be a U.S. Army mandate now, as it is not the first time an undocumented immigrant has been taken into custody after presenting their IDNYC card. New York resident Pablo Villavicencio was detained while delivering a pizza to the Hamilton army base in New York City last month, after presenting his identification card at the gate.

Is this what we have come to? Hard working, honest people working 7 days a week to raise a family are being challenged without probable cause because they are using a completely legal and accurate NYCID card.

 If we see an injustice that is trying to cull the herd, to pull individuals out of the crowd, we should stand up and hide the innocent in the wave of the majority.  Think of the famous scene, "I am Spartacus!"  To that end, I encourage everyone who is a resident of NYC to sign up for the NYCID card, and to use it everywhere that government I.D. is required.

In this way we can normalize the document's use, so that people acting in the honest light of day do not need to suffer in this way.  Let the people live and work.

In the meantime, yes - I do believe in legal immigration, and I do not want people, including children, crossing the river on our southern border.  The death of children in the water and the dessert has not been sufficiently covered in the news. We should not have a system that encourages and rewards people to come across in that way.  Genuine asylum seekers should be welcomed at the ports of entry of the U.S. and a serious system of justice must be afforded them.  And I do believe in a much larger immigration system than we currently have, including a path to citizenship for those like the Silva family.  I do not believe in open immigration, and I do believe in strong borders. 

The recipe is clear. Broader acceptance of legal immigrants, strong enforcement of our borders, a path to citizenship for those who are here, and a process of dignity justice and mercy for those who seek asylum.

There must be an open door of mercy, and a reasonable process of justice.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Call your elected officials to stop family separations for Asylum Seekers

Dear Friends,

We have all be moved by the human pain of family separations in the detention centers at the U.S. border in recent days.  

Regardless of laws and politics, the separation of children from parents without due process raises in our memory and consciousness Jewish horrors from a different time and place.  Regardless of reason or purpose behind the policy debate, as Jews we are unwilling to accept the outcome that we are seeing.

To that end, the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, and all arms of the Conservative movement have joined 26 Jewish organizations and other religious groups in condemning the cruel and unconscionable policy of separating children from their parents seeking asylum in the United States. We are horrified by the heart-wrenching pictures of children being torn from the arms of their parents and put into prison detention of any kind, and of the credible reports of tent cities going up in 100-degree heat to accommodate hundreds of these children.
The presumption of guilt for all undocumented entries into the United States at the border is an abrogation of constitutional process that all are innocent until proven guilty.  Those seeking asylum have committed no crime, and to presume so is against our core principles.  To then use that false presumption to take children from the protective arms of parents is unconscionable. 
I urge all of our members to call your elected leaders, the Attorney General, the Department of Homeland Security, and the White House to protest. Their numbers are listed below.
White House, (202) 456-1111
Attorney General Jeff Session’s office, (202) 514-2000
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen’s office, (202) 282-8000
Senator Robert Menendez
Washington office: (202) 224-4744, New Jersey office: (973) 645-3030
Senator Cory Booker
Washington office: (202) 224-3224, New Jersey office: (973) 639-8700
Rep. Josh Gottheimer – 5th District
Washington office: (202) 225-4465, New Jersey office: (201) 389-1100
Rep. Leonard Lance – 7th District
Washington office: (202) 225-5361, New Jersey office: (908) 518-7733
Rep. Albio Sires – 8th District
Washington office: (202) 225-7919, New Jersey office: (201) 309-0301
Rep. Donald Payne Jr. – 10th District
Washington office: (202) 225-3436, New Jersey office: (973) 645-3213
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen – 11th District
Washington office: (202) 225-5034, New Jersey office: (973) 984-0711
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman – 12th District
Washington office: (202) 225-5801, New Jersey office: (609) 883-0026

Recognizing that a genuine policy debate is under way, I implore you to exercise your voice on behalf of family unity for all asylum seekers to our country.  We as a people, more than any other, can not allow such an outcome.


Rabbi Robert L. Tobin

Stop Taking Children from Border Detainees

June 12, 2018

The Honorable Jeff Sessions
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
Washington, DC 20530

The Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen
Secretary of Homeland Security
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Attorney General Sessions and Secretary Nielsen,

On behalf of the 26 undersigned national Jewish organizations and institutions, we write to express our strong opposition to the recently expanded “zero-tolerance” policy that includes separating children from their migrant parents when they cross the border. This policy undermines the values of our nation and jeopardizes the safety and well-being of thousands of people.

As Jews, we understand the plight of being an immigrant fleeing violence and oppression. We believe that the United States is a nation of immigrants and how we treat the stranger reflects on the moral values and ideals of this nation.

Many of these migrant families are seeking asylum in the United States to escape violence in Central America. Taking children away from their families is unconscionable. Such practices inflict unnecessary trauma on parents and children, many of whom have already suffered traumatic experiences. This added trauma negatively impacts physical and mental health, including increasing the risk of early death.1

Separating families is a cruel punishment for children and families simply seeking a better life and exacerbates existing challenges in our immigration system. It adds to the backlog of deportation cases and legal challenges in federal courts, places thousands more immigrants in detention facilities and shelters, endangers the lives of more children, and instills additional fear in people seeking safety in our country. In addition, those seeking asylum or other legal protection face numerous obstacles to making a claim, especially from detention. Separating family members at the border would force families into two or more immigration cases instead of a single case for each family, harming their ability to present a successful case.

Our Jewish faith demands of us concern for the stranger in our midst. Our own people’s history as “strangers” reminds us of the many struggles faced by immigrants today and compels our commitment to an immigration system in this country that is compassionate and just.

We urge you to immediately rescind the “zero tolerance” policy and uphold the values of family unity and justice on which our nation was built.


American Conference of Cantors
American Jewish Committee (AJC)
American Jewish World Service Anti-Defamation League
B’nai B’rith International
Bend the Arc
Jewish Action Central Conference of American Rabbis
Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization of America, Inc.
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Jewish Labor Committee
Jewish Women International
Men of Reform Judaism
National Association of Jewish Legislators
National Council of Jewish Women
Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies
NFTY – The Reform Jewish Youth Movement
Rabbinical Assembly
Reconstructing Judaism
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
The Workmen's Circle
T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Union for Reform Judaism
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Uri L'Tzedek, The Orthodox Social Justice Movement
Women of Reform Judaism

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The New U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem (See the map)

Yesterday marked to formal move of the embassy of the United States of America in Israel to Jerusalem.  It was a day full of pomp and celebration by supporters of Israel and Israelis together. While the Palestinian Nakba protests continued, a peaceful and joyous commemoration of the new building was taking place in Jerusalem itself.

Yes, Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel, and has been for over a half a century.  This is where Israel's government sits, and does the business of running the country. 

The controversy is based on historic opposition to the existence of the State of Israel at all.  The 1948 armistice line, called the Green Line from old military maps, marked the division between Jordan and Israel until 1967. In the Six Day war that year, Israel conquered everything from Tel Aviv to the Jordan River in that region.  The Oslo Accords returned local governance of non security issues in certain Palestinian areas, including areas to the East of Jerusalem, where Palestinian majorities are pervasive. The final resolution of Jerusalem and its status as capital of Israel and or a Palestinian State was left for last level negotiations.  Since then, Israel needed to build a separation barrier on the eastern side of the city for security purposes, and the peace process has broken down.  Yet the continual governance of the united city of Jerusalem has continued unabated, and well.

Moving the embassy was delayed for many administrations to avoid "picking sides" in the final status of the City.  But that is ridiculous.  Should the U.S. put an embassy in an area whose "final status" is in Israel, then it is the embassy in Israel.  Should that embassy wind up in a State of Palestine, then it will be the embassy in Palestine.  Should it be determined (never) that Jerusalem becomes the United Nations original pipe dream of an International City, then - mazal tov - you have a consulate for the United Nations there.  Putting a U.S. embassy building down in Jerusalem changes nothing, except it refuses to cater to the delusion that Israel is not real and permanent.  Good negotiations begin with facts, truth and clarity.  Opening the embassy does that.

Now, what IS interesting is the piece of land chosen by the U.S. While it has not been covered by the media, the embassy straddles the Green Line.  The west side is on the Israeli side of the green line and the east side is on the old Jordanian side of the green line.  Theoretically the building can accept people from either side, without controversy.  Cynics however will say that it declares Israeli sovereignty by ignoring that it is building "across the green line," in part on "occupied territory."

Personally, I like the choice, as it makes the situation clear and declares that the United States is in the middle of it for ever.  

In the meantime, television coverage continues to focus on the Hamas inspired "suicide by cop" protests on the Gaza border.  There, hundreds of people at a time are attacking the border fences, trying to enter Israel for violent purposes.  What nation in the world would not protect a border from such invasion, and with live fire if necessary?  If thousands of people along the Mexican or Canadian border started launching fire bombs into American fields, planting bombs along the border fences, and tried en masse to breach the fences in an organized attack, wouldn't the ICE border control agents have to use their weapons?  Wouldn't they use tear gas first, which issuing clear warnings?  Wouldn't they use fans to blow away smoke for clear view? Wouldn't they fire warning shots?  Wouldn't they have to defend the territorial integrity of the U.S. with live fire if none of that worked?  They rules aren't different just because it's Israel. 

The Palestinian cause needs to return to the negotiating table.  This bloodshed is their plan, and their purpose.  Israel must hold fast, even as it loses the publicity war to protect its people.

Friday, May 11, 2018

RA Statement on Iranian Attack on Israel

RA Statement on Iranian Attack on Israel

In response to Iranian rocket attacks against Israel late Wednesday night, the Rabbinical Assembly released the following statement:
Wednesday, Iranian forces fired some 20 rockets at the Golan Heights, marking the first time the regime has directly attacked Israel from Syria. Thankfully, the Iron Dome missile defense system was able to intercept a number of the rockets, and no Israelis were hurt in the attack. In response, Israel attacked multiple Iranian and Syrian military sites early Thursday morning.
We echo the calls of world leaders in condemning Iranian aggression and attacks on Israel. Israel has every right, and an obligation to its citizens, to defend itself against such Iranian provocations.
While we commend the Israeli military for its bravery in protecting the people of Israel, we pray for an immediate de-escalation of violence and the safety of all people.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

AJC statement on US Withdrawal from the Iran Nuclean Agreement


AJC Statement on President Trump’s Decision to Withdraw from Iran Nuclear Deal

May 8, 2018 – New York – AJC CEO David Harris, responding to President Trump’s announcement today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, issued the following statement:

When the JCPOA was first announced on July 14, 2015, AJC took three weeks to study the agreement, meet with a range of high-level American, European, and Middle Eastern officials, and engage in a thorough internal discussion. This was undertaken against a backdrop of nearly two decades of AJC’s focus on the growing Iran threat, and countless discussions from Beijing to Berlin, from Tokyo to Paris, from New Delhi to Brussels, from Washington to the UN, and well beyond.

In the end, we concluded that we could not support the deal, as we feared its flaws – no binding provisions on ballistic missile development, no focus on Iran’s destabilizing regional behavior, weaknesses in the coverage of the inspections regime, and a dangerous sunset clause – would ultimately define it.

Moreover, the fact that the deal was never submitted to the U.S. Senate and that not one Republican senator voiced support, coupled with weak public approval according to various national surveys, almost ensured that once Republicans came to power the JCPOA would be in danger.

Regrettably, that’s exactly what happened.

In addition, despite repeated Obama Administration predictions, which we ourselves heard more than once, that the JCPOA would moderate Iranian behavior and lead to greater focus on domestic growth and development, Tehran has expanded its regional aggression, repeatedly flexed its military muscle, continued its calls for Israel’s annihilation and “Death to America,” and flaunted its expanding missile program.

And Israel’s remarkable intelligence coup in Iran further underscored the longstanding Iranian pattern of deceit, deception, and disinformation, and served as an additional warning to the international community about the true intentions of Iran’s leadership.

President Donald J. Trump never hid his disdain for the JCPOA or his threat to withdraw the United States from it. But he also left open the possibility that, if our European allies, would be willing to address seriously the core weaknesses, then there was an alternative to “nixing” the deal. Regrettably, however, despite efforts on both sides of the Atlantic, full agreement on a path forward has to date eluded the Americans and Europeans.

That is profoundly regrettable. Despite our many reservations, we had nonetheless hoped to see the deal “fixed,” not “nixed,” at this stage of the game.

We can only hope that today’s action by the President, significant as it is, will not end the effort to find common ground. The last thing anyone should want is a wedge driven between the U.S. and our European partners, as Iran would inevitably become an unintended beneficiary. And given Iran’s current and future threats to regional and global security, that should be an outcome no one in the U.S. or Europe wants.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Letter from Israel on her 70th Anniversary

I share with you the thoughts and feelings of our sister synagogue, Shira Hadasha in Arad, Israel.

Dear Friends and Family,

In approximately three hours, we’ll be walking to the entrance of the city to take part in the Arad Memorial Day ceremony. It is  one of the most impressive ceremonies that I have ever attended. It totally reflects what life in Israel is all about. 23,645 Israelis have lost their lives in defense of the country. 50 of them are from Arad. Each of them will be remembered individually. Fallen soldiers are considered children of all of us. 

At 20:00 (8 P.M.), sirens will go off all over the country and everyone will bow their heads and stand at attention. All traffic will come to a standstill. The same thing will happen tomorrow morning. All school programs will be dedicated to this. 

All regular TV and radio programming will cease and all shows will be dedicated to stories about these soldiers lives. This next 24 hours are very difficult for all of us. 

The tradition in Israel is that we follow a day of intense sorrow with one of intense joy. Israeli Independence Day begins exactly 24 hours later. It is heartwarming to see how so many people have decorated their houses and cars.  Marvelous celebrations take place all over the country and many people have bar-b-ques.  Many Army bases are open to the public as well as all National Parks. 

These two days, as well as last week’s Holocaust Day, always make me remember why I made Aliyah and have lived here the past 44 years.