Two days before Passover, 17 Valley rabbis spoke out Thursday against sweeps conducted by deputies of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to identify and arrest illegal immigrants for deportation.
The Jewish leaders said they are "deeply troubled by what we see happening in our community as a result of racially targeted actions undertaken" by the sheriff's office "against the Latino community," read the five-paragraph statement, followed by an alphabetical list of signing members of the Greater Phoenix Board of Rabbis, whose current president is Rabbi Andrew Straus of Temple Emanuel in Tempe.
"We realize that illegal immigration is a serious problem, and we call upon the federal government and the state of Arizona to employ just and humane tactics and procedures" that would "ensure the security of all who live within the borders," said the rabbis, who represent primarily Reform, Conservative and Renewal Jewish traditions.
They stressed the Jewish festival was beginning Saturday night "during which time Jews around the world will recall our own experience of liberation from oppression," the rabbis' statement said. "We are reminded of the unalienable right of all human beings to be treated as such."
The rabbis said they found it distressing that "it appears that people are being profiled and detained ... on the basis of their race and ethnicity, and that this policy is creating an environment of fear and intimidation" in the community among both legal and illegal immigrants. "We feel that this policy can only lead to the further dehumanization of individuals and groups of individuals in our community," the statement said. Arpaio may be acting within the law, they said, but his actions are not consistent with America's founders "who passionately believed in the value of freedom and justice for all."
A week ago, the bishops and top Arizona leaders of Episcopal, United Methodist, Lutheran and Presbyterian churches and the United Church of Christ released a similar statement, saying the sweeps "evoked a police state environment." Joining them were the head of the Arizona Ecumenical Council J䮠Flaaten and the executive director of the Phoenix chapter of the American Jewish Committee, Rabbi Maynard Bell, who also signed the rabbis' letter.
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