Maryland Hillel released a statement Wednesday expressing support for refugees, immigrants and family members affected by President Trump’s immigration ban.
In an open letter to University of Maryland President Wallace Loh, Maryland Hillel Director Rabbi Ari Israel and Eric Fingerhut, the president and CEO of Hillel International, drew parallels between current issues surrounding immigration and the refugee crisis and past struggles of the Jewish people.
They wrote that the Torah commands the Jewish people to “remember the experience of being foreigners, strangers, and victims of oppression.”
Trump signed an executive order Jan. 27 suspending the entry of refugees into the United States for 120 days and barring Syrian refugees indefinitely. The order also blocks citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days. “Throughout our history, Jews have been minorities within the many cultures we have lived, and have often been the subject of restrictions on where we could live and study,” they wrote. “We know if this order were aimed at Jewish students we would ask you and all our fellow students to stand with us. As such, we unequivocally stand with all students who find that this order will affect themselves or their families.”
Israel and Fingerhut also applauded Loh’s “statements and actions” to protect university students in response to Trump’s order. Loh sent a message to the university community on Tuesday, saying the order “poses human, moral, and constitutional dilemmas.”
The order affects about 350 people at this university — mostly graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and visiting scholars, Loh wrote.
The ban has blocked at least one graduate student abroad from returning to the United States, and might also affect three others, Loh wrote. The university is working to intervene on their behalf, he added. A student from the university, who is a green card holder, was detained at Washington Dulles International Airport late Saturday after returning from a trip to Turkey to visit relatives with her 5-year-old cousin.
“To all of you, we pledge our full support,” Loh wrote. “This University is your University. You belong here. We stand with you.”
Maryland Hillel’s leaders also invited Loh to attend an annual Global Justice Shabbat dinner, which will focus this year on the Syrian refugee crisis as a humanitarian issue.
Sam Fishman, a senior government and politics major and president of the Jewish Student Union, said Hillel’s letter invoked history to show the organization’s support.
“I think it’s [a message of] trying to reach out to the affected communities,” Fishman said. “I think they’re coming from a place with an introspective look at the Jews’ own history, and using that as a way to reach out to the affected groups.”