Mi sheberach avoteinu v’imoteinu, may God who blessed our immigrant ancestors, who left their homes and often their families because of the pain and violence inflicted upon them and who entered new lands facing challenges that could not be imagined, who left Egypt, who left Spain, who left Russia, Iraq, and Greece, who left Germany, Poland, and other beloved countries, bless them for their vision and for the sacrifices made. Their courage and stamina laid a foundation that we stand upon today.
May God bless all who continue to come to this country seeking refuge, Jew and non-Jew alike, who come with the hope of finding first and foremost safety as well as opportunity.
Each and every Shabbat eve, we acknowledge our connection with the immigrant experience, zecher l’tziat Mizraim, we sing. We recall not only that we were once strangers in foreign lands, but we praise God for bringing us out of Egypt, a place to where we had immigrated, and for carrying us back into the land of Canaan, a land that though understood as homeland was for the generation entering it, a new and foreign land filled with obstacles for this immigrant generation.
Let us acknowledge that we live in a country that holds itself out as a place of promise.
'Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the Golden door!' -- The poet Emma Lazarus imagined Lady Liberty calling across the river to new immigrants arriving to this country at the turn of the twentieth-century.
Let us also acknowledge that despite our pride in our country being a place of refuge for those in need, our immigration policies are broken. They are far from satisfactory.
As we stand in the sacred presence of Torah on this Shabbat following a week in which our Governor has declared nothing short of a closing of Maryland’s borders to the stranger in our midst—May we not only remain open to the possibility of comprehensive change in our immigration system, but may we remain open to hearing the cry of the millions fleeing horrific conditions in Syria due to civil war. We were once in not so different shoes. Let us not turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to their pleas for refuge and their desperate need for safe haven.
May we strive to balance our own concerns for safety, our own need for reassurance, with the very real and present needs of those actively seeking refuge. Ufros aleinu sukkat sh’lomecha, May the Holy One of Blessing provide a sheltering presence to all who are in need, and may we not let our own fears stand in the way, amen.
(This sermon/prayer is broadly adapted from a prayer written by Adam Stock Spilker for Rosh Hashanah worship, 2013. His Mi Sheberach is published on rac.org)