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US Jewish groups excoriate new travel ban as ‘more of the same’

WASHINGTON — A number of Jewish organizations, many of them liberal, wasted no time Monday condemning a revised executive order signed by US President Donald Trump temporarily banning immigrants from six predominantly Muslim nations from entering the country.

The Anti-Defamation League “strongly condemned,” calling it “still effectively a Muslim ban that will be challenged in the courts.”

“While some of the initial executive order has been revised, the message is the same: that Muslims and refugees who are fleeing for their lives are not welcome on our shores,” ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt said in a statement. “To be sure, rigorous screening for everyone seeking to enter the US is vital, but this order appears to be designed to exclude one religious group and is nothing less than a page taken from the anti-immigrant movement’s playbook. This is an appeal to xenophobia and fear.”

Several of the groups said the action was an affront to both Jewish and American values.

“We will resist all attempts to vilify refugees,” the said HIAS, the global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees, formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, on Twitter. “The US Jewish community owes its very existence to a tradition of welcoming refugees.”

The president’s new order prohibits issuing new visas to citizens from six Muslim-majority nations for 90 days. Citizens from Iraq have been removed from the original travel embargo, and a new provision protects religious minorities.

The order, which will be phased in over the next two weeks to avoid the messy rollout of previous travel ban, also reduced the indefinite restriction on refugees from war-ravaged Syria to a 120-day ban, officials said. It will take effect on March 16.

On Twitter, HIAS said the measure’s language “changed slightly, but the results are the same.”

“Refugees who already passed extreme vetting are barred from entering the US [and] the ban on entry from Muslim-majority countries remains,” the group added. “This [executive order] cripples America’s domestic refugee resettlement infrastructure while attempting to fix a system that is not broken.”

The social justice group Bend the Arc Jewish Action said it would “fight for our Muslim brothers and sisters.”

“This is not about national security — he is targeting Muslims, immigrants and refugees purely out of spite and fear, but national security experts agree that his action today will not keep us safer,” the group’s CEO, Stosh Cotler, said in a statement.

Trump’s last travel ban elicited widespread disapproval from the American Jewish community, resulting in a rarity of having all three major Jewish denominations — Reform, Conservative and Orthodox — coming out against the measure.

On Monday, the Reform Jewish movement quickly criticized Trump’s second travel ban order as well.

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner addressing a crowd of social activists. (Courtesy: Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism)

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner addressing a crowd of social activists. (Courtesy: Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism)

Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center, the denomination’s political wing, said the administration “has doubled down on its discriminatory and unjust immigration and refugee ban, defying the American traditions of welcome and religious liberty.”

“The Jewish community — like all Americans whose ancestors arrived as refugees and immigrants — was given opportunities to access education, join the workforce, and contribute to their communities and their country,” Pesner added.

The progressive Jewish advocacy group T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human rights said Trump’s executive action was “masked as an effort to ensure national security,” but that is “more of the same Islamophobia that targets Muslims by reinstating the discredited vetting procedures, established after September 11, 2001, aimed at men from Muslim-majority countries.”

The measure “continues to effectively close our borders to Muslims, and flagrantly violates America’s longstanding, values-driven commitment to serving as a safe haven for refugees,” it added.

Rabbi Jack Moline, head of the Interfaith Alliance, said the ban was “un-American” and targeted Muslims.

“Today’s action is fueled by anti-Muslim bigotry and motivated by a desire to score political points – not keep Americans safe,” he said in a statement. “Even in its slightly revised form, President Trump’s Muslim ban violates constitutional principles and undermines America’s standing in the world. We must be clear that discriminating against millions of people on the basis of their religion does nothing to make Americans safer.”

The American Civil Liberties Union condemned the immigration order as a “Muslim ban” in all but name, and vowed to keep fighting it in court.

“The Trump administration has conceded that its original Muslim ban was indefensible. Unfortunately, it has replaced it with a scaled-back version that shares the same fatal flaws,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project.

“The only way to actually fix the Muslim ban is not to have a Muslim ban,” Jadwat said in a statement. “Instead, President Trump has recommitted himself to religious discrimination, and he can expect continued disapproval from both the courts and the people.”

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