This Saturday the Jewish community observes Tisha B’Av, a day of deep mourning commemorating the destruction of both ancient temples in Jerusalem, leading to the exile of the Jewish people for centuries to come. It’s almost impossible to fathom that today there are more than 82 million people displaced around the world. This Tisha B’Av, as we read from the book of Lamentations, we mourn the losses refugees and asylum seekers have suffered and the treacherous journeys they endure as they seek safety and freedom.
We lament their struggle to afford food, rent, and other necessities.
We lament the overcrowded living conditions, lack of clean water, and lack of access to healthcare that has left refugees especially vulnerable to contracting COVID-19, and the existing inequities that were laid bare by the pandemic, including lack of access to vaccines, education and the threat of domestic violence.
We lament that there are those among us and around the world who see refugees and asylum seekers as threats, rather than as potential neighbors, contributors to society, humans who want for themselves and their families the same things that we want for ourselves and our families: physical and psychological safety, stable employment, secure housing, and access to education.
We lament the pain and trauma already inflicted on those who sought protection and were met with cruelty. Even as we see policies in the United States begin to shift to a more just and humane approach toward refugees and asylum seekers, we know there is more work to be done.
We lament that policies like Title 42 continue to deny people their fundamental and legal right to seek asylum in the United States.
We lament, and we mourn. And we will rise up from Tisha B’Av with renewed resolve to fight for justice, and to grant refugees and asylum seekers welcome, safety, and opportunity.