Silence on border policies

Silence on border policies

Rabbi Jesse Olitzky’s op-ed “72 hours at the border: discrimination in three parts” (Nov. 14) was a deeply moving and disturbing piece. The rabbi first explained the Torah value of how Jews are obligated to treat strangers and then contrasted that with the cruelty he and his colleagues found when visiting the border. They are to be commended for making this difficult trip.

Alas, this small group of rabbis did what many others should be doing. Apart from the groups supporting Olitzky, there has been no noticeable outcry from national Jewish organizations, lay or clergy. And the situation at the border grows worse with each revelation.

Recently news broke of another child dying in detention at the Texas border. Sixteen-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez was suffering from the flu, with 103-degree fever and no one taking care of him; no hospital admission, not even a cot to lie on. Video released by ProPublica shows him in his cell, sick and writhing on a concrete slab.

He lay dead for more than four hours until his cellmate woke up and found him. Sixteen years old. His crime was that he came from Guatemala to try to find a better life here in the Golden Land, but ended up dead like discarded trash.

Where is our outrage as human beings? Where is our Jewish outrage? Why are we, who have been through such fierce hatred, persecution, and slaughter, silent when there is a new — dare I say it? — Theresienstadt in our own country.

No, this is not an exaggeration. The detention centers are carrying out nothing less than intentional persecution of children inflicted as a deterrent to others. How many children have died in detention for lack of care in horrendous conditions? Does “Never Again” apply only to Jews? Do we not have an ounce of compassion when children are forcibly separated from their parents and left to die in unspeakable conditions? To watch innocent children die in custody from neglect and abject cruelty, and be silent, is a stain on our community.

So my question is this: Is moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem so earthshakingly important that we put aside every value we as American Jews purport to stand for? If so, shame on us.

Barbara Teicher

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