Hospitality and this Week’s Executive Orders on Immigration

Panim Hadashot-New Faces is a unique organization in the Jewish community that is focused on revitalizing Jewish hospitality traditions.  We believe that hospitality is not only a critical spiritual practice.  It also has important ethical implications on how we treat the stranger.   As leader of Panim Hadashot, I feel moved to react with alarm and concern to this week’s Executive Orders on Immigration.

I have signed onto to a statement which I have appended below which clearly states my objection to these orders and deep concern for the impact these orders will have on millions of people and the reputation of the United States around the world.  Please join me in objecting to the emerging policy on immigration by the new administration.

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

The Faith Action Network of Washington State

Statement on President’s New Executive Orders on Immigration

 

The Faith Action Network of Washington State strongly opposes the Trump Administration’s executive orders to drastically restrict refugee admissions to the United States, especially from war-torn nations like Syria; build a barrier wall at the southern border of the United States; and aggressively pursue and deport unauthorized immigrants. We join with millions of Americans of all faiths, leaders of local and state government, and other community leaders to say we will step up our own efforts to provide direct support to immigrants and refugees who are threatened by these new policies, and organize our faith communities to challenge these policies through nonviolent means.

We believe these new executive orders violate our cherished religious values and what it means to be an American. ­­­­­­­­­­As people of faith, we are called to love and serve our neighbors from near and far, particularly those most vulnerable to violence and persecution. We honor the God who commands that “the alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens…” As Americans we know the great contributions that immigrants and refugees make to our nation’s culture, history and economy, enriching our life together. Welcoming the stranger is at the heart of the American story.

Therefore, we call upon President Trump to uphold our shared American values and rescind his new executive orders. We call upon the members of our own faith communities to speak out and act in support of refugees and the neighbors among us who may face deportation. We offer our support to elected leaders and local law enforcement agencies that refuse to be part of implementing aggressive deportation policies on behalf of the federal government.

As leaders of diverse faith traditions, we have come to know that our differences are a blessing and that love can cast out fear. We must act boldly for the vision of an America, where the most vulnerable are protected and welcomed.

Jewish Hospitality in the 21st Century

What is Jewish Hospitality?

Panim Hadashot-New Faces is a community focused on the practice of Jewish hospitality. The Jewish hospitality traditions go back to Abraham and Sarah in chapter 18 of the Book of Genesis. Abraham greets and feeds guests soon after he had circumcised himself. The Rabbis saw his readiness to welcome guests even when he was physically uncomfortable as an indication of his extraordinary kindness. In rabbinic literature, the act of hospitality (hachnasat orchim) is greatly cherished and is regarded as a sign of good character and generosity.

The term “panim hadashot”-new faces is found in the Talmud to refer to the practice of inviting people in the community to share in the joy of bride and groom by inviting them to the ancient tradition of seven days of feasting and singing for the bride and groom following a wedding. The guests at these parties had to be new faces who had not attended the wedding celebration. The purpose of inviting new faces was to share joy and abundance with others beyond the bride and groom’s family and friends.  We draw inspiration from this old hospitality tradition.  We reintroduce this practice to modern Jews by helping households to practice home hospitality and the making our Sabbath and Festival tables a welcoming space for new faces-“panim hadashot.”

Jewish hospitality is associated with the observance of the Sabbath. It is traditional to invite guests to the home Sabbath table either on Friday evening or during the Sabbath day.  One sign of a strong synagogue community is an invitation to a newcomer to a Sabbath meal after the service in a home.

Panim Hadashot-New Faces is committed to reviving and adapting the Jewish hospitality traditions in our modern context in which Jewish households are spread out over a wide geographical area and many Jews are not regular synagogue attenders.   We see home hospitality as a way to revitalize Jewish connection and to inspire engagement with Jewish teachings, with the rich Jewish musical legacy, with the varieties of Jewish cuisine, and most of all to the Jewish practice of kindness to strangers.  Panim Hadashot does this by  fostering hosting partnerships all around Seattle.   

On a deeper level by practicing hospitality we are able to share our Jewish values as an expression of living in a free, diverse society.  We are also able to share with others who are different than ourselves.   In a troubled world where people talk of building walls, we wish to do the opposite.  The words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks express the vision guiding our understanding of Jewish hospitality in a world of diversity.

“There is all the difference in the world between the attempt to impose your faith on others and the willingness to share it with others. Our faiths are different. Judaism is not Christianity; Christianity is not Islam; the Abrahamic monotheisms are different from Eastern mysticisms on the one hand, scientific humanism on the other. Yet when we bring our respective heritages of wisdom to the public domain, we have no need to wish to convert others. Instead, we are tacitly saying, ‘if this speaks to you, then please take it as our gift.’ Indeed, it is yours already, for wisdom (unlike revelation) belongs to us all. The willingness non-coercively to share our several traditions of moral insight is, in a religiously plural culture, an essential part of the democratic conversation, indeed of societal beatitude.”