Thanks very much to TedF for his excellent post after Saturday’s synagogue murders in Pittsburgh. I’m sure I speak for absolutely everyone here, that we stand unequivocally, faithfully, lovingly and eternally with all of our Jewish friends, neighbors, family, and colleagues.
And I also commend Ted for explicitly connecting support of our Jewish neighbors, and support for refugees. After all, today’s American Jewish friends and neighbors are often descendants of yesterday’s refugees — be it from Nazism or the pogroms. This is also true, of course, of those of Italian, Irish, Vietnamese and countless other descents — even the Pilgrims. And most of these groups encountered discrimination and vicious stigmatization upon arriving: How soon we have forgotten the anti-Catholic hysteria behind the Ku Klux Klan; Sacco and Vanzetti; and “No Irish Need Apply”! (“When America despised the Irish: The 19th Century’s refugee crisis”)
Therefore we also stand unequivocally and eternally with refugees, the caravans of the dispossessed, the survivors of violence, the passengers of underground railroads and kindertransports and boats in the Mediterranean, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
I wish that this were common wisdom in our relatively (small-l) liberal state of Massachusetts. But it does not go without saying. As I’ve mentioned many times before, our Governor and Mayor of Boston were faced with this very moral test in 2015, when faced with the prospect of welcoming refugees from Syria’s civil war. And Governor Baker and Mayor Walsh both choked, inexcusably — making excuses and voicing discomfort, instead of offering aid and help to the most vulnerable and traumatized. We simply must embody a higher moral standard in Massachusetts. It is literally who we are as a people.
In a week where even the unambiguous constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship is under attack, let us reflect then on the wisdom of George Washington in his Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport (my emphasis):
While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.
The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.
If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.
The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.
It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.
May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.
May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.