Parashat Bo

Two Minutes of Torah with Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky

"There shall be one law for the citizen and for the stranger who dwells among you."

—Exodus 12:49

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court voted to lift a stay on implementation of the so-called “public charge” rule while lawsuits challenging its legality make their way through federal courts. This rule, adopted in the face of intense opposition, would allow the U.S. government to make it harder for those immigrants who may need government aid to obtain a green card and establish permanent residency.

The JCRC and numerous other non-profit organizations and municipalities have filed lawsuits challenging this full-frontal attack on our immigrant communities. Current immigrants who use a range of public benefits, as well as future immigrants who may need to utilize these benefits, stand to be irreparably harmed. People fearful of being denied green cards will undoubtedly choose to not access desperately needed public benefits and services, including food stamps, school lunches, and medical care. Faith based organizations that routinely work with immigrant populations are caught in this struggle. If a person can’t turn to public assistance to feed their family, they will turn to the faith-based programs in their community. Programs ranging from church food pantries to large organizations like JSSA see people daily who must balance their need for food, clothes, and health care with protecting their immigration status.

A driving force behind the Jewish community’s open-door practices comes from this week’s Torah reading, Parashat Bo. Here we learn that we should establish one law for the citizen and the stranger. This is regarding who can eat the Passover offering, but is extended to how we treat those among in general, no matter their place of origin. The citizen and the stranger each have the opportunity to follow laws and receive the same benefits. The person who has chosen to be part of the community is expected to follow the laws and in return, receive the benefits of the community.

Every immigrant has a different reason for coming to the United States. Perhaps it is a search for economic or educational opportunities, a desperate flight from violence, or other family or health needs. Every immigrant’s journey is different, but the goal of being part of American society remains the same. They make commitments and sacrifices to be here and are a tremendous asset to our communities. In pivotal moments like these, when immigrants seem to be attacked at every turn, how are we understanding the messages of Judaism and using them to impact the world?