Be kind to the stranger because you were strangers in a strange land.
Be a light unto the nations.
Love your neighbor as you would yourself.
Do not sit idly by when your neighbor’s life is threatened.
These are more than Biblical verses. These are the core values of Judaism and the rebar that has helped shape generations of Jewish leaders, thinkers and followers. It is these verses and values that served as the blueprint for the establishment of the Jewish State. It is these verses that stoke us to load planes full of medicine and supplies to earthquake-hit cities and tsunami ravaged towns. This has been the secret sauce of the Jewish State and its people. More than a free press, being a creative technology or even a lone democratic state amongst its dictatorial neighbors, Tiqqun Olam – Making the world a better place – when tragedy or crisis strikes has been our most potent calling card.
Sadly, the bell has rung but we are not responding the way in which we have been fashioned: our reflex is to react and we are sitting still. Woe to us.
A young lifeless body washed up on the shore of Turkey last week. The picture is haunting and it tells a painful story. It is not a new story, just a story for this time. In the 1980s that boy’s name would be Yevgeny and he would be from Kosovo. In 1995 that boy’s name would be Ndugu, and he from Rwanda. Were it 1939 that boy’s name would be Shmuel, from Eastern Europe. It is 2015 and his name is Aylan, a Kurdish refugee seeking safety from war-torn Syria. He is one of too many innocent casualties in the war that has claimed close to a quarter of a million lives of his brethren. Thousands other, more fortunate than Aylan, have escaped through the border with only the clothes on their back and, of course, pictures. We all flee with pictures because they are tangible memories that remind us our dreams and even nightmares did happen. These refugees are simply looking to start anew wherever they can. We must help.
Our neighbor is in need and it is time for us to be that light unto the nations. We cannot sit idly by. We know what it was like to be forsaken and foreigners. These are more than verses in our history. They are mandates for our present.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, if indeed you speak for all Jews, act as our shared tradition instructs us and open our gates to those that seek refuge. Whether it be eighteen or one hundred eighty or one hundred eighty thousand… But open the gate and demonstrate to the world the beacon that guides us. That light can disinfect those that seek to hate us and call for our destruction. That light will show the way for other leaders and countries and citizens to follow. That light can write a new narrative of hope and partnership that will blind out the past stories of hate and animosity.
Make this a time where the verses that founded us yesterday inspire the values that fuel us today.
Be a light unto the nations.