In Rare Rebuke, Orthodox Union Slams Trump's Policy of Separating Migrant Kids From Families

The organization has teamed up with over 25 Jewish groups criticizing the administration’s policy

A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border, McAllen, Texas, June 12, 2018.
JOHN MOORE/AFP

WASHINGTON – More than 25 Jewish-American organizations published a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday strongly denouncing the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their families.

While most of the signatories consistently criticize Trump’s policies on various issues, the letter won the endorsement of the Orthodox Union, an organization that is usually more supportive of the 45th president.

The letter states that “this policy undermines the values of our nation and jeopardizes the safety and well-being of thousands of people.”

The signatories added that “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.”

The groups note that “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.”

Among the signatories are the American Jewish Committee, the Union for Reform Judaism, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Anti-Defamation League and Hadassah. But politically, the most significant endorsement is that of the Orthodox Union, which earlier this week hosted Sessions as a keynote speaker at an event the group held in Washington.

Orthodox Jews, unlike Reform and Conservative Jews, awarded the majority of their votes in the 2016 election to Trump and the Republican party. The Orthodox Union, an umbrella group for the Orthodox community, has expressed strong support for Trump’s policies on Israel, and also on key issues such as religion-and-state questions and Trump’s judicial appointments.

The Orthodox Union’s hosting of Sessions drew condemnation from strong critics of the Trump administration, who accused the group of honoring the man most responsible for Trump’s harsh immigration policies. In response to that criticism, the Orthodox Union said its leaders privately discussed concerns about immigration with Sessions following his speech.

Other Jewish groups praised the Orthodox Union for endorsing the letter on Friday. Michael Lieberman of the ADL said the group’s position is “always value added,” while Ori Nir of Americans for Peace Now wrote: “The Orthodox Union has joined a letter by American Jewish organizations condemning the separation of children from their migrant parents when they cross the border. Kudos to all signatories including the Orthodox Union. Kol Hakavod!” – which means “good job” in Hebrew.