Parashat Lech Lecha | Congregation Beth Am

Parashat Lech Lecha

By Rabbi Jonathan Prosnit on
October 19, 2018

Genesis 12 Adonai
said to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from your
father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, And I
will bless you; I will make your name great, And you shall be a blessing. I will bless
those who bless you And curse him that curses you; And all the families of the earth
Shall bless themselves by you.” Abram went forth as the God had commanded him,
and Lot went with him. Abram was seventyfive
years old when he left Haran. Abram
took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the wealth that they had amassed,
and the persons that they had acquired in Haran; and they set out for the land of
Rashi to Genesis 12 (AND I WILL MAKE OF YOU A GREAT NATION) — Since
travelling is the cause of three things — it decreases (breaks up) family life, it reduces
one’s wealth and lessens one’s renown — he therefore needed these three blessings:
that God should promise him children, wealth and a great name (Genesis Rabbah
Rabbi Neil Kominsky on Lech Lecha: For the rest of his life, Abram/Abraham is an
outsider wherever he goes, not a privileged native of the land he lives in. …. Abraham
set a pattern for much of subsequent Jewish history. In Babylon, in Europe, in countries
all around the modern world, Jews have lived as immigrants, an identifiable minority
within a different host culture…. a sense of vulnerability and sensitivity to feeling like an
outsider has contributed to a Jewish mindset. The Torah enjoins us to care for aliens (an
accurate translation of what is rendered as “strangers” in most texts) because we know
the heart of the alien, having been in his or her shoes ourselves.
In today’s world, concern for immigrants and refugees is not an abstraction. Stories and
images of whole families, men, women, and children, fleeing for their very lives trouble
our minds and hearts daily. The unlivable conditions that force people to risk their very
lives are well known to us: war, violence, oppression, poverty. Our ancestors, too, have
known all of these.
Rabbi Nancy Kasten Objectively, my circumstances are the polar opposite of the 68.5
million refugees, displaced persons, and asylum seekers who wander the earth in
search of the place they belong; the immigrants and people of color and religious
minorities and LGBTQ persons who are now regularly and systematically marginalized
and discriminated against in their own country... I can’t change the fact that I am a
person of privilege. But I can try to let others know that I care, in word and deed. My
nest overflows with blessings. It is time for the power of those blessings to be shared
outside the nest, with people and groups who desperately need them. This is the Lech
Lecha journey I am on, to do my part to realize the full benefit of God’s promise of
security and prosperity

Refugee Statistics
From HIAS www.

● There are now 68.5 million people worldwide who have been forcibly displaced due to
persecution and violence.
● 25.4 million of those are refugees. Most of the remainder are internally displaced within
the borders of their own countries (i.e., they have fled their homes but have not crossed
an international border).
● 85% of refugees are being hosted in developing countries. This is largely due to
geography; these countries are closest to the conflict zones people are fleeing. Turkey is
the country that hosts the most refugees (3.5 million). •
● 57% of the world’s refugees come from just three countries: South Sudan (2.4 million),
Afghanistan (2.6 million), Syria (6.3 million). •
● Over half of refugees are under the age of 18. •
● The numbers of displaced people – including refugees – are the highest in human
history. Someone is displaced from their home approximately every 2 seconds. During
2017, conflict and persecution forced an average of nearly 44,000 individuals per day to
leave their homes and seek protection elsewhere.
● Refugee advocates often refer to three durable solutions for refugees. These durable
solutions include local integration (for refugees who can safely rebuild their lives in the
country to which they fled), resettlement (for the most vulnerable refugees for whom life
is not safe in the country to which they fled and so require permanent resettlement in a
3rd country), and repatriation (for refugees for whom circumstances in their homeland
change significantly enough that it is safe to return).
● Less than 1% of refugees are resettled, and the U.S. has traditionally led the world in
terms of resettlement. Though, because we have cut the number of refugees we resettle
by more than half, we have also cut the number of refugees resettled worldwide by about
a half
● In April 2018, the administration announced implementation of a zerotolerance
This policy meant that individuals apprehended crossing the border not at a portofentry
would be criminally prosecuted, which led to not only criminal prosecution but also
detention and then the separation of families.
○ The zero tolerance
policy is in violation of international and domestic laws. 
Seeking asylum is not an illegal act, and asylum seekers should not be punished
for doing so.
○ The Department of Homeland Security has 300,000 pending asylum cases, and
immigration courts have a backlog of over 700,000 cases.
○ In 2017, there were 20,455 people granted asylum. However, that was before
the new regulations, all of which have made it much, much harder for anyone to
successfully be granted asylum. The numbers for 2018 are not available yet, but
they will be far lower.

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