Monday evening, fresh off of the welcoming news that the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld the injunction against Muslim ban 2.0, I participated in my first HIAS (formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) action meeting at the Sixth and I Synagogue in Washington D.C. HIAS, which has Jewish roots, has a mission of welcoming, settling and otherwise assisting refugees from all over the world and of all different backgrounds and is “guided by Jewish values and history.”
The purpose of the meeting was for young Jews in Washington, D.C., to organize themselves against threats to the United States’ refugee program, such as budget cuts and the Donald J. Trump administration’s efforts at implementing a Muslim ban twice. The administration’s most recent executive order would ban citizens of six Muslim-majority countries and suspend admission of refugees into the United States. Fortunately, HIAS is not the only organization in the area, or in the country, working on behalf of refugees, but the event was specifically important to me because it has much to do with my Jewish identity.
My grandfather was a Jewish refugee from Austria, and he spent the late 1930s and early 1940s travelling from country to country before finally gaining entry to the U.S. There are many American Jews who, one or two generations removed from the Holocaust, share a similar family story.
Like me, many of them were shocked and disgusted by Trump’s attempts to ban refugees, especially refugees of a specific religion, and even more so by the timing of the ban with a day remembering those who died when the world, just over 70 years ago, refused to help refugees. As HIAS noted at the meeting, January 27, the day Trump issued his first executive order barring Syrian refugees and citizens from other Muslim-majority countries, was also International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The fight against the Muslim ban is strong.
As an intern with Americans United, one of the many organizations fighting the Muslim ban in court, I’m learning more about how the separation of church and state and religious freedom intersect with countless other issues. Public schools, reproductive rights, LGBTQ equality and more all are under attack under the guise of “religious freedom.” I’m also learning that religious discrimination against Muslim refugees and refugees from Muslim-majority countries is especially rampant.
At AU, I’m also seeing the bright side of just how much religious communities and leaders are organizing in defending church-state separation and religious freedom. For example, AU’s friend-of-the-court brief against the Muslim ban in State of Hawaiʻi v. Trump includes seven Christian faith leaders from Colorado, Florida, Minnesota and New York. Many non-religious groups, such as atheist and humanist organizations, are also involved in this important work.
“Although the Executive Order’s discriminatory treatment of Muslims will be interpreted by many in the global community as a statement from Christians, it does not represent our will or our position as the actual representatives of our faith,” clergy members stated in the brief. “As Christian leaders, we did not and do not request preferential treatment for adherents of our faith.”
Monday’s HIAS meeting was another example of religious groups organizing to fight religious discrimination, whether against Muslims or anyone else. As I continue working with AU this summer, I’m hopeful that the continuous effort to block the Muslim ban is interfaith and that it also includes the many non-religious groups, such as atheist and humanist organizations, that are also involved in this important effort.
You can follow all of AU’s work combating Trump’s Muslim ban here.