Rabbi Michael Feshbach of the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, made a strong statement on June 29. In his opening words, he said:
“Bottom line: he was afraid of the immigrants. They looked different, they spoke another language, they carried on with strange customs, followed a different faith, had a totally new way of looking at the world. Even casual contact, even letting them pass through his country would bring change. And God knows, it might threaten the way things were. And so, we read, that Balak, the Moabite king for whom this week’s portion is name, ‘was alarmed.’ ‘Vayagar Mo’av.’ The root word for being ‘alarmed’ is related, is seems, to the word for ‘ger,’ ‘stranger.’ The ‘other.’ The very one which our Torah and our tradition teaches, time and again — 36 times in the Torah itself — who we are supposed to welcome, who we are to feel compassion towards, against whom we are forbidden to discriminate or persecute or oppress.
“That… that is the heart of Biblical values. No actual and honest reading of the Bible… none… could miss that point.”
In other words, those who are using the Bible to justify the forcible separation of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border have misinterpreted the Bible.
This is a message that quite a few other religious progressives have been giving over the past couple of weeks: the Bible clearly states that we should welcome the “other,” not demonize them.