San Diego Jewish Community Gathers for Round Two of Resistance to Travel Banby Natalie Jacobs March 9, 2017
In an effort to give facts that the San Diego Jewish community can take to Shabbat dinners and casual conversations, nearly all of the major Jewish organizations in town gathered for “We Were Refugees, Too, part two” this time at Temple Emanu-El in Del Cerro. It was three days after the second, revised executive order on immigration, this time banning travel and resettlement for immigrants and refugees of six Muslim-majority countries for 120 days.
In keeping with the increased security at all Jewish events in San Diego after a continued rash of bomb threats, an SDPD patrol car was parked in front of the synagogue and five security guards checked bags and personal belongings of all the more than 200 people in attendance.
In her opening remarks, Tammy Gillies, executive director of ADL-San Diego, showed cards her office received from a local mosque, from children writing to express their support for the Jewish community in its struggle against rising anti-Semitism and threats to the community.
“This event tonight is to support them,” Gillies said.
Michael Hopkins offered a progress report on his organization’s ability to resettle families between travel bans. He noted that one Afghan family, and two families and two individuals from Iraq were able to come to San Diego last week. They are expecting five families before the second executive order goes into effect, on March 16. He introduced one recent refugee from Iraq, Basma Al Khateeb.
“What happened during the past six weeks,” here in the United States, she told the crowd, “it’s kind of like the threats we were receiving at home.”
“The American Jewish community owes its existence to America upholding its values and allowing refugees in,” said Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS, the oldest resettlement agency in the world, who was in town from Washington, D.C.
Immigration lawyer Ginger Jacobs noted that San Diego has let in record numbers of refugees, and in 2016 saw its crime rate hit an all-time low. She noted the top four refugee populations in San Diego are originally from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“We must insist the debates be done based on fact,” said attorney Rick Burton, “not fear or demands for certainty that do not exist.”
While there was no overwhelming rallying cry, each panelist insisted that resistance starts at the individual level, encouraging audience members to volunteer with refugee organizations, find ways to create community with individual refugees who have resettled in San Diego, and have fact-based conversations around kitchen tables.
*Photo: Mark Hetfield of HIAS speaking in the Temple Emanu-El sanctuary for “We Were Refugees, Too” part 2 on March 8, 2017.