At Central Synagogue

Rabbi Kolin Speaks Out on Anti-Refugee Rhetoric

Posted December 3, 2015

<b>Rabbi Kolin Speaks Out on Anti-Refugee Rhetoric</b>

The following is excerpted from a piece that originally appeared on, November 24, 2015.

The United States has an extensive security process which has safely resettled 745,000 refugees since 9/11 without one arrest on domestic terrorism charges. I name that fact first because as we grapple with the question of whether we close our doors to Syrian refugees fleeing unfathomable terror, facts are often drowned out by fear. As a New Yorker who contemplates the vulnerability of my own family and city, I don’t discount or dismiss fear. But fear does not have to win this day.

Deciding between security or refugees, “them” or “us,” obscures the real choice we make in the most challenging of times: will our fear win, or will our humanity? Will we turn inward or will we live our highest values of love for the stranger, knowing the soul of the stranger as intimately as we do? As Jews who know what it means to be turned away from borders, our answer must be yes, let them in. And as Jews who still feel boundless gratitude for the Righteous Gentiles who risked their lives to save ours, the answer again must be yes; let them find safety here.

Those Righteous Gentiles were called so because they placed human life above all things, including fear; they saw their own children in the eyes of ours. Will righteousness also be our inheritance? When there is so much at stake, who will we be? Let us make our systems strong, our safety as assured as possible, our process rigorous, always. But let us also not be the people who turned our backs.

The words “never again” were never going to be easy to fulfill, but we have a chance to realize them in this very moment by speaking up resolutely for people who have literally no place to turn. May we act for our own sake and for the sake of the thousands who need the world to protect them right now.

Rabbi Stephanie D. Kolin