Supporters of refugees counter-protest an anti-refugee group gathered on the steps of the state capitol in Olympia, Washington on November 20, 2015
Supporters of refugees counter-protest an anti-refugee group gathered on the steps of the state capitol in Olympia, Washington on November 20, 2015 © Jason Redmond - AFP/File
Supporters of  refugees counter-protest an anti-refugee group gathered on the steps of the state capitol in Olympia, Washington on November 20, 2015
AFP
Last updated: December 4, 2015

More than 1,000 US rabbis welcome Syrian refugees

Banner Icon More than 1,000 American rabbis from across the country have signed a letter supporting Syrian refugees and urging politicians to show moral leadership in providing them a haven.

The letter was published on the website of HIAS, a New York-based charity originally set up to help Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe more than 100 years ago.

It comes after the House of Representatives voted on November 19 to ban Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the United States without tougher screening measures after the Paris attacks.

More than half the nation's governors have also declared them persona non grata -- despite rigorous one to two-year screening processes already in place.

The rabbis said they were "alarmed" to see so many politicians oppose the arrival of refugees and urged America not to repeat "one of the darker moments of our history."

In 1939, the United States denied entry to German vessel the SS St. Louis, sending more than 900 Jewish refugees back to Europe, where the rabbis said "many" died in the Holocaust.

"That moment was a stain on the history of our country," they wrote.

"In 1939, our country could not tell the difference between an actual enemy and the victims of an enemy. In 2015, let us not make the same mistake."

The rabbis called on elected officials to support refugee resettlement and oppose any measures that would halt that process or restrict funding for any refugee groups.

"As rabbis we take seriously the biblical mandate to 'welcome the stranger.' We call on our elected officials to uphold the great legacy of a country that welcomes refugees," they added.

Since October 2011, America has admitted just 2,363 of the four million Syrians forced to flee the nearly five-year war.

Turkey has taken in two million, Lebanon more than one million and Jordan more than 500,000.

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