N.J. rabbis press state for driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status

N.J. rabbis press state for driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status

OVER 100 CLERGY members from New Jersey, including 36 rabbis, have signed an open letter to state legislative leaders and Gov. Phil Murphy urging immediate action on legislation to expand access to driver’s licenses. Bills A-4743/S-3229 would expand access for nearly 700,000 residents who face barriers to accessing a driver’s license, including those who are formerly incarcerated, members of the LGBT community, undocumented immigrants, and survivors of domestic violence.

“In New Jersey, driving is central to everything we do,” said Rabbi Marc Katz of Reform Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield. “However, too many people in New Jersey face barriers in accessing a driver’s license. The Jewish faith teaches us to take care of the stranger in our midst. One of the easiest ways to help is by making sure they have access to the needs of everyday life. This starts with ensuring our immigrant, formerly incarcerated, and low-income neighbors can access a basic driver’s license.”

In the letter, leaders of the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths urge action on the need of residents to have mobility through a driver’s license to take care of children, access medical and social services, and participate in community life. For New Jersey’s immigrant communities, access to a license means being able to drive without fear of deportation and potential separation from their families.

The letter includes the following biblical injunction: “We are inspired by our faith that demands of us not just concern for the strangers in our midst, but also equal and fair treatment of them. Leviticus instructs us that, ‘When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt (19:33-34).’”

The campaign was initiated by Let’s Drive NJ, comprised of nearly 70 community, faith, labor, social service, and advocacy organizations. Local signatories include the following pulpit rabbis: Ethan Prosnit of Temple Emanu-El, Westfield; Avi Friedman of Congregation Ohr Shalom-The Summit Jewish Community Center, Summit; Charles A. Kroloff of Temple Emanu-El, Westfield; Randi Musnitsky of Temple Har Shalom, Warren; Michael Satz of Temple B’nai Or, Morristown; Andrew R. Sklarz of Temple Beth Am, Parsippany; Joel N. Abraham of Temple Sholom, Scotch Plains; Faith Joy Dantowitz of Temple B’nai Abraham, Livingston; Jesse Olitzky of Congregation Beth El, South Orange; Matthew D. Gewirtz of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, Short Hills; David Levy of AJC New Jersey; Elliott Tepperman and Ariann Weitzman of Bnai Keshet, Montclair; David Greenstein of Congregation Shomrei Emunah, Montclair; and Laurence W. Groffman of Temple Sholom of West Essex, Cedar Grove.

The letter adds, “Exodus 12:49 makes it clear: ‘There shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you.’ This teaching permeates Jewish tradition and in all is stated 36 times in the Torah — the most repeated of any commandment. It reminds us of how our ancestors were treated as the stranger, even in Egypt, a land where we lived for generations, and of our responsibility towards others.”

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