Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Beverly Hills rabbi fought for Iranians' asylum

The newcomers from Persia owe much to the Sinai Temple's (Ashkenazi) head rabbi Zvi Dershowitz, who fought hard for them to be granted asylum in the US and for acceptance by their fellow congregants. The Iranian Jewish Chronicle reports (with thanks: Albert):

"Iranians continued to pour in. They arrived by the thousands, and without visas. Culture in tow, they gravitated toward temples that would whole-heartedly take them in. Or not.

"With a “we shouldn’t have to pay to pray” mentality, they showed up to Sinai’s weekly Shabbat services but were absent on high holidays. They were unusual. Not punctual. Not American. Not the types of Jews to which Americans were accustomed.

"The standards of “kosher” differed among Persian Jews. The mixing of meat and milk was common and offensive to the Ashkenazim.

"Americans were ill-equipped for the assimilation and steadfast on pushing out the newcomers. Sinai’s board of directors got together and dealt with the commotion by cutting the Kiddush from Saturday services. Perhaps the Iranians would leave promptly and not stick around after services to mingle, make friends and connect. The aversion was obvious. It was an ugly and grim moment in time.

"Then stepped in Rabbi Zvi Dershowitz. Compassionate. Empathetic. Sensitive. Refugee. Dershowitz got out of Europe “thirty-three days before Hitler took over.”

"As Sinai’s head rabbi in the 1970s and 1980s, he sought to calm the ruckus within the congregation. He worked with congress and the senate to obtain political asylum for anyone with an Iranian passport who could prove they were Jewish. The federal government made it a ruling.

"He wrote hundreds of letters to the Justice Department on behalf of the immigrants. As long as it was on Sinai’s letterhead, asylum was automatic.

“I believe every Jew is responsible for every other Jew,” Dershowitz says."

Read article in full


Highest Infidelity said...

Wow it's amazing how dedicated some people are to a principle that they will "fight" for people they don't know like that. It's a great attitude the rabbi has.

hope said...

absolutely, this is an amazing human being. i have been lucky enough to be present at some of his lectures....his wisdom, kindness,and intelligence are inspiring to say the least!