Jewish Groups Slam Trump's Draft Order Barring Muslim Refugees

'As Jews, we recognize the danger in any action that singles out people based on their religious beliefs.'

Protesters rally against U.S. President Donald Trump's order cracking down on immigrants, New York, January 25, 2017.
Andres Kudacki/AP

Several liberal American Jewish groups decried a leaked draft of the executive order U.S. President Donald Trump signed on Friday that will limit immigrants and refugees from some Muslim-majority countries.

The draft, which was leaked to the media on Wednesday, bars the entrance of noncitizens from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia for 30 days. It also suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days and bans refugees from Syria from entering the U.S. until further notice. Seperately, Trump said he wanted the United States to give priority to Syrian Christians fleeing the civil war there. 

The executive order began to fulfill Trump’s promise during the campaign to bar Muslims, later amended to citizens of countries compromised by terrorism, from entering the United States. A chorus of Jewish groups criticized the proposal when Trump first announced it in 2015, and several liberal Jewish groups slammed it again Wednesday.

“History will look back on this order as a sad moment in American History – the time when the president turned his back on people fleeing for their lives,” read a statement from Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. This will effectively shut America’s doors to the most vulnerable people in the world who seek refuge from unspeakable pain and suffering.”

Other groups also recalled past Jewish suffering in opposing the executive order. Ahead of the Holocaust, the United States denied entry to Jewish refugees, most notably turning back the M.S. St. Louis, a ship carrying nearly 1,000 German Jews.

“The expected executive order defies the best American tradition of being a place of refuge for those fleeing persecution. As Jews, we recognize the danger in any action that singles out people based on their religious beliefs. If the order is made as anticipated, it is deeply troubling, rooted in exclusion and discrimination, and echoes the most shameful parts of our history,” Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, told Haaretz. 

At a press conference held in Washington on Thursday by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, executive director Nihad Awad compared the executive orders to those that prevented Jewish refugees from entering the United States during the Holocaust.

“One of our darkest moments in history was during WWII, when we turned away Jewish refugees,” Awad said, adding that the order is a confirmation of the Islamophobia expressed by Trump during the campaign. Standing with him at the conference was Rabbi Joseph Berman, the Government Affairs Manager of Jewish Voice for Peace. 

“I’m here, because one side of my family got out in time and came here as refugees,” Borman said, his voice shaking. “There are many who did not make it here and have died as a result. These orders, make no mistake, they are racist and anti-Muslim. The will not make us safer, they will make us less human.” The rabbi added that that the order goes against the Jewish commandment “Love thy neighbor” and concluded, “I want people to know that I and others in the Jewish American community will fight with you.”

The organization as a whole also pledged to fight the orders. “We will organize our communities to stand alongside our Muslim, immigrant & refugee neighbors, in the halls of Congress & government institutions, and in the streets,” the organization wrote. “We cannot let this stand."  

Bend The Arc Jewish Action, a liberal advocacy group, endorsed a rally opposing the executive order held on Wednesday in front of the White House. “Making decisions on who is welcome in our country based solely on their religion or national origin is fundamentally un-American,” said a statement by Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc. “As Jews, we know what it’s like to be scapegoated and we will not be silent now.”