Ask the Rabbi

  • Torah and Jewish Thought
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Rabbi Yoel Lieberman

Shevat 19, 5776
Does Jewish law regulate the treatment of refugees? Does Jewish tradition provide any guidance whether we should help refugees? Is there a halachic obligation/prohibition to support them? Is the answer dependent on whether the refugee is Jewish or not? What kind of assistance does Jewish tradition command us to provide to refugees? Are our personal feelings /fears/suspicions or even dislike of a specific group relevant in deciding how to act? In a modern nation state, where most Jews live, does Jewish law compel us to act, even if there is a national policy in place, regulating refugees? Is our Jewish past, our history of exile, of discrimination relevant in determining how we treat refugees?
ב"ה Shalom Jewish law is based on the Heavenly given Torah and the oral tradition that accompanies it. It is soul restoring only when complete from all aspects. The Toran and the oral tradition are full of commandments and regulations of helping orphans, widows, and the poor and showing compassion for them whether Jewish or not Jewish and this would include also refugees. Israel as a state has sent rescue and medical teams around the world in times of disaster. Israel has treated the sick from all over the world including our neighboring hostile Gazza and the wounded even from enemy countries such as wounded Syrians at this very time. Israel has also taken in to its borders a fair amount of refugees over the years. However, The Torah also provides guidelines to prevent situations which can be detrimental to physical and spiritual wellbeing of the people all depending upon the circumstances. Our Jewish past may have influence on the way we conduct ourselves, but it cannot alter Jewish Law. The State of Israel conducts itself in a similar way just as it is accepted in other democratic countries do, but probably to a higher standard due to the constant criticism against Israel. All the best
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