December 11th, 2018
There was a lot of talk at the immigration conference. Actually, it was almost all talk. Some of it was utter nonsense. Some of it was profound. The flow of words was like a roaring river, too swift to follow. I tried to catch a few words, a few phrases. I wrote down the words that caught my ear and touched my heart. I will share at least of them now.
“Do you know what ‘Antisemitism’ means? It means: ‘They are coming to get you too!”
A young woman from Brooklyn said those words while part of panel discussion on bigotry. She rakishly wore a fedora on her head, and she often spouted old school, Marxist slogans. However, in this case, her words were totally right on. She explained that Jews have been targeted by white nationalists because the Jews consistently support the rights of immigrants. The Jews get it. They know. I have noticed this myself. When I have asked for help with immigrants, my Jewish friends have always shown a great deal of interest. It’s in their history. It’s in their DNA. They understand that, if we fail to support those who are now being oppressed, our turn will come.
This idea is for me best expressed by Martin Niemöller, who was not a Jew, but who fought fiercely against the injustices of Hitler’s Third Reich. He said,
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
When I think about why I am involved with the work to protect immigrants, I think of the words of Pastor Niemöller. I have an immigrant wife. Sure, she has a green card, but what does that really mean? With Trump in office, when will they come for her? When will they come for me?