Welcoming The Stranger

Billy Wilder, legendary Hollywood writer and director of such classics as “Sunset Boulevard” and “Some Like It Hot,” was a refugee who left Germany for Paris as the Nazis gained power. He made it briefly to America but had to leave and reapply. Wilder told the story of coming to the American consulate in Mexico, desperate to return to the U.S.

Wilder knew that many waited for years; others were never admitted. He was terrified. He explained that he had almost no documentation because it was all left behind.

The consul asked him, “What do you do?”

“I write movies,” said Wilder.

“Is that so?” said the consul. They stared at each other for a long time.

Finally, the consul stamped his passport and said, “Write some good ones.”

He did.

In a thousand small acts, an individual shows his heart and a nation shows its character. In a world that is riven by fear many open hands have closed into fists. Let us remember how important it is to also believe in the possibility of goodness and the power of welcoming the stranger.


About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.