“In 1939, the United States refused to let the S.S. St. Louis dock in our country, sending over 900 Jewish refugees back to Europe, where many died in concentration camps,” write more than 1,000 American rabbis in a letter delivered to Congress yesterday. “That moment was a stain on the history of our country – a tragic decision made in a political climate of deep fear, suspicion, and antisemitism.”
“The Washington Post released public opinion polling from the early 1940s, showing that the majority of U.S. citizens did not want to welcome Jewish refugees to this country in those years,” they continue. “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.”
HIAS, a U.S.-based Jewish charity organization, organized and delivered the letter to all federal lawmakers.
The Jewish leaders are calling on Congress to welcome Middle Eastern refugees into the U.S., primarily those fleeing extreme violence in Syria and Iraq. The rabbis, representing congregations in 46 states and Washington, D.C., implored “our elected officials to exercise moral leadership for the protection of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.”