The Jewish Week: An Open Letter To Mayor Bill de Blasio On Syrian Refugees

The following open letter appeared in The Jewish Week on December 23, 2015:

Dear Mayor Bill de Blasio:

Guided by our history and values, Jewish organizations from across the political and religious spectrum are rallying in support of refugees, regardless of religion, race, or nationality. On behalf of HIAS, the global Jewish non-profit organization that was established here in New York City in 1881 to protect refugees, we want you to know that we share your commitment to welcoming refugees as part of the core values of both the United States and New York City. The U.S. has offered protection to the world’s most vulnerable people and time and time again, this included protecting Jews. Today, this is more important than ever with unprecedented numbers of refugees unable to go home, in need of protection, and hoping to be resettled.

Your voice remains crucial in leading our country’s common-sense response to the largest refugee crisis of our generation. We urge you to continue to educate your colleagues about the robust security processes that are central to the U.S. resettlement program. As you stated, refugees are vetted “comprehensively and thoroughly” before ever stepping foot within our borders. Furthermore, we hope you will educate legislators and the community at large about the many benefits refugees bring to our country, and to New York City.

With the Statue of Liberty standing in New York Harbor, it is critical that New York City has a mayor who stands up for refugees. For decades, immigrants — in many cases refugees fleeing persecution in their home countries — have found refuge in New York and helped drive economic growth cultural diversity as they started new lives in safety. You reminded us earlier this month, New York is a “city of immigrants,” which is integral to the unique fabric of communities ranging from Washington Heights to Coney Island.  

Amid the recent calls by U.S. politicians to close our doors to refugees, we applaud you for standing up and recognizing that refugees are the victims, rather than the perpetrators of terror and violence. At a time of legitimate fears for national security, your leadership in understanding that refugees are the most thoroughly vetted people to come to the United States is an example to cities across the nation.

You are not alone in your commitment to helping the most vulnerable populations; the Jewish community stands with you. Over 150 rabbis from New York City joined a recent letter signed by over 1,200 rabbis urging Congress to protect refugees.  Communities across New York and around the country are meeting with their legislators, hosting events, and writing op-eds to ensure that the United States remains a beacon of hope for refugees as it was for many of our families.  In Washington, a coalition of organizational and other partners are fighting to ensure funding for resettled refugees and the American communities who welcome them.

We look forward to working with you in the future to ensure that our country lives up to its proud tradition of “welcoming the stranger” and protecting refugees.


Mark Hetfield and Dale Schwartz

Mark Hetfield is the President and CEO of HIAS; Dale Schwartz is the chairman of the board.


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