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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jewish view of immigration

Our lunch discussion group read two rabbinical perspectives on the immigration issue, one, Amy Eilberg, citing the admonition to care for the stranger, and the other, Bonnie Koppell, citing the requirement to respect national borders (the latter is a Reform rabbi, the former represents the Conservative movement).  Of course I found Eilberg much more compelling than Koppell (who said, among other things, that "we must have confidence in our law enforcement professionals [to comply] with the letter and the spirit of the law.")

However, it was a statement within the latter commentary that bothered me the most - that basing policy solely on compassion (as opposed to justice) results in "little motivation to do what is right."  I don't even know what that means, but it strikes me as absurd and rather offensive.  I think compassion leads to correct action must more often than a preoccupation with justice does (a common theme in literature and film, by the way).

In fact, the most interesting comment in the very lively (though poorly attended) discussion came from Victor, who asserted that making the sensible choice often leads to the making the "right" choice - such as supporting medical marijuana, which is both the compassionate position, as well as the economically sensible one. (He had a whole list of examples, but that's the only one I can think of right now.)  He made the case for compassion before I even raised my objection to the author's point.

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Side note - next month, the rabbis will be absent, so Mark Field and I are picking an article, something about the Jewish response to the "Arab spring."


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