Why We Intervened in Travel Ban Case

The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle is proud to stand with Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson in his legal challenge of the President’s executive order against immigrants and refugees. We are heartened and grateful that the U.S. Court of Appeals yesterday unanimously upheld Judge James Robart's decision to stop enforcement of the order nationwide. It is our hope that the friend-of-the-court brief that we filed played a part in persuading the appeals court to rule as it did.

Our history as a refugee people and the Jewish values that define us compel us to oppose this executive order. It is not a decision made lightly. Over thousands of years, time and time again, the Jewish people have been forced to flee menacing hatred and violence. Just about every family in our community has a story recounting the personal struggle of relatives who escaped oppression. My own grandparents fled Russia and Hungary to avoid persecution.

Like other immigrant communities - when our families arrived in America, often they were unwelcome. We were “otherized” by our foreign language, culture and religion. Yet we stayed. We built better lives, thanks to the opportunities that America offered. Washington State, in particular, has grown and prospered, thanks to the hard work of immigrants making a fresh start in our state. The story of the Jewish community, like the collective story of the United States, is one of immigrants finding refuge and freedom in America, getting a second chance, and making the most of it. Today’s immigrants are no different.

The Torah teaches us to welcome the stranger because we were once “strangers in the land of Egypt.” As the leading advocate for our Jewish community in the Puget Sound region, we firmly oppose bigotry and discrimination, in whatever forms they take.

We are inspired by the personal story shared by Matthew Bergman, the Seattle attorney who donated his time to prepare our appeals court brief. Even as his family in Europe languished in the Lodz Ghetto, Matthew’s grandfather - who immigrated to the U.S. in 1909, settled in Seattle in 1912 and served in the Navy during World War I - spoke out against internment of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during World War II. He declared: “Religious and ethnic discrimination anywhere is a threat to Jews everywhere.”

We could not have stated our perspective and our resolve any better. Each of us has a responsibility as Jews to speak out and stand firmly for what we believe.