Australian rabbis from all streams of Judaism have emphasised the Torah’s commands to protect, indeed to love, the strangers in our midst and expressed concern at current treatment of people lawfully seeking asylum in Australia who arrive by unscheduled sea voyages.
While recognising the challenges and complexities resulting from increased refugee flows, they call on the Australian government to observe its obligations under international refugee and humanitarian law.
Last month 16 rabbis in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra issued the following statement:
Rabbis’ Statement – A call for compassion
We are deeply concerned about the plight of people seeking asylum and refugee status in Australia who are being held in offshore detention.
We are particularly concerned at this time about the psychological and physical welfare of some 267 men, women and children currently in mainland Australia, who face the prospect of being returned to offshore detention.
Judaism commands us to recognise the vulnerability of strangers among us and to treat them with respect and dignity, indeed with love, because our people have often been strangers in a strange land, and have stood where they now stand.
We recognise the moral, practical and legal complexities caused in our region by global refugee flows but urge the government of Australia to act with empathy and compassion towards these most vulnerable people and to do everything in its power to care for them and to reduce their trauma.
We call on our government to observe Australia’s obligations under international refugee and human rights law, to ensure the safety, security, and physical and mental well-being of every person who is fleeing from persecution and war and is in need of protection in Australia, to shorten the time it takes properly to assess refugee claims, and to act as a matter of utmost urgency to ensure that no-one is detained under conditions that many experts have said, and some incidents have shown, are detrimental to physical safety and mental health.
We stand in solidarity with people of all faiths across our country who have offered protection and sanctuary to people seeking asylum and who support their right to compassionate treatment.
We pray for a world of peace and security in which large numbers of innocent people are not forced to flee from their homes.
Rabbi David Blackman, Jewish Learning Centre, Bondi, Sydney
Rabbi Dr. Benjamin Elton, The Great Synagogue, Sydney
Rabbi Danny Eisenberg, Ohr Chadash, Bondi, Sydney
Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins, Emanuel Synagogue, Woollahra, Sydney
Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky, Beit Shalom Progressive Synagogue, Adelaide
Rabbi Gad Krebs, Kehillat Masada Synagogue, St Ives, Sydney
Rabbi Benji Levy, Moriah College, Queenspark, Sydney
Rabbi Paul Lewin, North Shore Synagogue, Lindfield, Sydney
Rabbi Alon Meltzer, ACT Jewish Community Inc., Canberra
Rabbi Fred Morgan AM, Emeritus Rabbi, Temple Beth Israel, Melbourne; Professorial Fellow, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne
Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio, Emanuel Synagogue, Woollahra, Sydney
Rabbi Shneur Reti-Waks, The Arc Centre, Hawthorn East, Melbourne
Rabbi Nicole K. Roberts, North Shore Temple Emanuel, Chatswood, Sydney
Senior Rabbi Gary J. Robuck,, North Shore Temple Emanuel, Chatswood, Sydney
Rabbi Shua Solomon, Mizrahi Synagogue, Bondi, Sydney
Rabbi Dr. Orna Triguboff, Emanuel Synagogue, Woollahra, Sydney
See also: Rabbis back refugees, an article in The Australian Jewish News
In February, the Rabbinical Council of Victoria issued the following statement: