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Profoundly Wrong: 'We Were Strangers, Too: the Jewish Campaign for Immigration Reform' | NumbersUSA - For Lower Immigration Levels

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Profoundly Wrong: 'We Were Strangers, Too: the Jewish Campaign for Immigration Reform'


I was born Jewish, but was agnostic for much of my life. When I did research into a fairly cutting edge area of science, I realized that nothing in science disproves the concept of G-d, so I opened myself to certain experiences in my life that I had discounted, and I came to believe in G-d. I am still learning about Judaism as a believer as opposed to an agnostic spectator. But, I think I know enough to be able to state that the immigration agenda of many major Jewish organizations is flatly wrong.

As I sat down to write this blog, I was going to quote words that Gideon Aronoff, the President of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, has used to justify Jewish support for amnesty, “We are taught to internalize the lesson that is repeated throughout the Torah and the Talmud that we must “welcome the stranger,” “not oppress the stranger,” “protect the stranger,” “have one law for the stranger and the citizen among you,” all because “you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

My problem was that I had to link his misinterpretation of Torah to nearly all the mainstream Jewish organizations. They made it easy for me with their new campaign, “We were strangers, too: the Jewish Campaign for Immigration Reform.”

The new campaign calls for “pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants” and the other predictable planks of the open borders agenda. The campaign is endorsed by the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith, and many other Jewish organizations. Earlier, a similar group of Jewish organizations had distributed the Progress by Pesach (Passover) petition, a drive to gather signatures for "comprehensive immigration reform" from the Jewish community. Despite the effort by several major, well-funded Jewish organizations, only “more than 3,500” out of the more than 5,200,000 Jews in the United States signed it. It seems that these groups do not represent American Jews.

Since they are using it as the platform for their amnesty campaign, let’s look at some of the biblical passages about the stranger:

Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
-- Exodus 22:21

And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
-- Leviticus 19: 33-34

Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
-- Deuteronomy 10:19

The Jews Went to Egypt Legally

Can it be that leaders of the major Jewish organizations are unaware that the Jews went to Egypt legally? The Jews were specifically invited and told where to settle by Pharaoh, the supreme authority in Egypt, out of gratitude to and respect for Joseph:

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph: ‘Say unto they brethren: This do ye: lade your beasts, and go, get you until the land of Canaan; and take your father and your households, and come unto me; and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt. and ye shall eat the fat of the land. Now thou art commanded, this do ye: take you wagons out of the land of Egypt for your little ones, and for your wives, and bring your father, and come.
-- Genesis 45:17-18

And Pharaoh spoke unto Joseph, saying: ‘They father and thy breathren are come unto thee; the land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and thy brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell.
-- Genesis 47:5-6

Did Joseph coach his brethren on what to say to Pharaoh in order to secure his approval? Yes, in Genesis 46:31-34, Joseph tells his clan what to say to Pharaoh. But it doesn't seem like the coaching had any effect on whether the Jews would be allowed in; it only effected where they would be allowed to settle. Pharaoh was a perfectly intelligent person who could assess the character and capabilities of other people. He chose Joseph to steer Egypt through the famine, and he chose to allow the Jews to settle in Egypt.

The Jews were Seeking Refuge from a Severe famine - Not so for Illegal Aliens

Not only did the Jews enter and settle in Egypt at the direction of the supreme sovereign authority, that is, legally, but they did so to escape a severe famine in all the surrounding lands. It wasn’t as if they had the option to choose to settle in another country. Egypt was the only place that had food.

And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.
-- Genesis 41:54

And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.
-- Genesis 41:57

The situation of illegal immigrants coming to the United States to make four to eight times as much money as they can in their homelands is hardly comparable to the situation of the Jews going to Egypt to escape starvation. There is no famine in the areas from which the vast majority of the illegal immigrants come. If there were, reports of the starvation would be loudly trumpeted by these amnesty groups! For example, on the very first page of a book detailing the passage of a group of illegal immigrants from Mexico, the author describes what they were leaving back in Mexico: “Visions of home fluttered through their minds. Soft green bushes, waterfalls, children, music. Butterflies the size of your hand. Leaves and beans of coffee plants burning through the morning mist as if lit from within. Rivers.” (p. 4 The Devil’s Highway, Luis Urrea).

Egypt Deported People, Too

There is another instance in Genesis where Jews went to Egypt- again to escape famine- not just to earn more money and have a better life.

And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.
-- Genesis 12:10

Abraham told his beautiful wife, Sarah, to tell the Egyptians that she was his sister. Abraham was concerned that otherwise the Egyptians would kill him to get to her. Indeed, she was so beautiful that she caught the attention of Pharaoh, who took her as a mistress. But since Pharaoh was sleeping with another man’s wife, Pharaoh’s house was stricken with a variety of plagues sent by G-d.

And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?
Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.
And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.
-- Genesis 12: 18-20

And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south.
-- Genesis 13:1


If that’s not a deportation, it’s pretty darned close. And Egypt was pretty darned close to a nation. There was a centralized government that extended its sovereign authority over a very large geographic area, a coherent identity of the population, and it engaged projects, such as building the pyramids, that that required the combined efforts of the entire “nation.”

Jews Owe A Duty to Those Lawfully Present in the Nation

The stranger, or sojourner, to whom Jews owe a biblical duty is the person who is lawfully present in the nation. The principle of dina demalchusa dina (Nedarim 28a), the “law of the land is binding,” applies here, because the immigration and work visa laws are perfectly reasonable. The United States laws admit a generous number of persons and are not racist. We grant over 1 million Green Cards per year, and grant at least an average of 600,000 work visas per year, with over 940,000 work visas granted in the year 2008,1 a recession year when Americans were losing jobs. 84% of the Green Cards we grant go to “persons of color” and there is no reason why the percentage of work visas should be any different. So, our laws are generous and non-racist.

In September, 2008, I was having a phone conversation with Marcela Sanchez of the Washington Post, and the excuse she gave for illegal immigration was that people can make eight times as much money as they can in their homelands. If that were an excuse for breaking a reasonable and duly enacted law, we’d have 100 million Bernie Madoffs. Our economy would collapse and this country would quickly reach Third World status. The law of the land is binding because the survival of the United States as we know it depends on it. Finally, there is no recognized human right to cross an international border unless you are a refugee. It’s simply not in the international human rights treaties.

We cannot accept this illegal behavior. Therefore, for people who are here illegally, what we owe them is to enforce the law of the land with respect for their human decency.

Jewish Charity Groups Shouldn’t Have to Check Immigration Papers, But Should Stop Calling for Amnesty

Is there something about the core meaning of the Jewish religion that would require Jews to accept illegal immigration? The rabbis I spoke with said that there is no “Jewish response” on the immigration issue. I think that Jewish groups should stay out of this area. That said, a group like the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society is not an immigration watchdog. They provide services to immigrants, and I’m not asking them to check immigration papers. Maybe for immigrants receiving extensive, long term support, HIAS should check status. But I don’t think federal law even allows HIAS to check status at the current time.

As I mentioned, I am relatively new to serious thought on Judaism. But one thing I do know is that G-d knows our thoughts even before they enter our conscious mind. G-d reasons perfectly, and G-d is all-knowing. If we are reasoning imperfectly, G-d knows this. If an error in our thought is pointed out, we must correct it if we have the capability, and G-d knows instantly if we fail to correct ourselves. It certainly seems to me that the leaders of several major Jewish groups are misusing the Torah. If my reasoning is sound, then G-d already knew their error, and will know if they refuse to cease and desist.

CHARLES BREITERMAN is an attorney and writer/researcher for NumbersUSA

1 United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, a U.S. government agency, informed NumbersUSA that during Fiscal Years 204-2008, the agency issued the following numbers of new Employment Authorization Documents (Form I-765).

673,717   675,231   682,160   854,186   912,735


If you want to verify the numbers, I would start by utilizing the “Contact Us” portion of the USCIS webpage. The Center for Immigration Studies manually counted up the data on the following webpage,, and arrived at 947,340 persons given work authorization in 2008. See, Table 10 of Center for Immigration Studies, Trends in Immigrant and Native Employment, May 2009.

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