After facing a barrage of criticism for meeting Wednesday with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Orthodox Union has added its name to a letter from 26 other Jewish organizations expressing “strong opposition” to separating children from their migrant parents at the nation’s southern border, a Trump administration policy backed by Sessions.
The letter, circulated by the Anti-Defamation League, calls the separation of families — part of the administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy for immigrants arriving at the border — “a cruel punishment for children and families simply seeking a better life.” Addressing Sessions and Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of homeland security, the letter also says that Jewish faith demands “concern for the stranger in our midst” and that Jewish history “compels our commitment to an immigration system … that is compassionate and just.”
The OU’s action, which came in a tweet Friday afternoon, followed two days of sharp criticism, much of it from rabbis and synagogues belonging to the umbrella organization, for inviting Sessions to speak to an annual leadership mission organized by the group’s Washington-based Advocacy Center. During the mission, OU leaders presented a plaque to Session with the Hebrew-language words for “Justice, Justice, Justice shall you pursue,” a verse from the Torah — an action slammed in social media and other forums.
A day after the meeting with Sessions, as criticism mounted, the OU released a statement critical of the zero-tolerance policy. “As an Orthodox Jewish organization whose values are anchored in those of the Torah and Jewish history, we are deeply concerned about any steps taken that affect families and the parent/child relationship,” read the statement by OU President Moishe Bane issued Thursday evening. “Thus, we believe that immigration, asylum and border security policies must also be fashioned and implemented in a manner that takes all steps possible to keep parents and children united.”
Before the OU’s Wednesday meeting with Sessions, T’ruah: the rabbinic call for human rights circulated a petition that garnered more than 1,400 signatures calling on OU leaders to raise the “zero-tolerance” policy with Sessions. The OU’s Advocacy Center said that its leaders did just that, raising the matter with Sessions, but in a private meeting with the attorney general.