My friend calls me, breathless with concern. Her housekeeper is late. For 10 years, S. has always been on time; today her cell phone picks up immediately.
Originally from El Salvador, S. and her husband, a handyman, have raised their daughter in our small California community. We worry that S.’s family, all undocumented, will be deported. It is frightening to imagine that people we care about — and others in our town like them — are being pursued and we cannot help them.
No matter how we feel about our borders, we need to keep our humanity. The words at the foot of the Statue of Liberty in the New York Harbor written by Emma Lazarus are a sharp reminder of what this country stands for:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Most immigrants are not criminals. Few leave their birthlands because they’re bored or curious. Most come out of desperation and hope for a better life for their children.
If you’re wondering what you can do to help, here is an answer from a non-Jew who risked his life and the life of his children to save Jews in the Holocaust. Alex Roslan lived in Warsaw. When the Jews disappeared, he was curious. He got a friend to sneak him into the Warsaw Ghetto. People were starving and dying; a child collapsed at his feet. Telling his wife and children what he saw, he cried, “We must do something!”
“But what can we do?” his wife asked. “Thousands are dying every day!”
He replied, “We can save one.”
How we respond to this social and spiritual crisis will reveal our country’s soul. Alex Roslan saved not only people: he saved the honor of humanity. May we do no less.
My grandparents, undocumented immigrants, loved America for its freedom, fairness and opportunity. That’s why I’m writing this, with love for our country and with hope it can be rescued from the disease of racism and be home to the huddled masses once again.
Rabbi Malka Drucker is the author (with photographer Gay Block) of “Rescuers: Portraits of Moral Courage in the Holocaust,” and “Jacob’s Rescue: A Holocaust Story.”
Rabbi Malka Drucker