With history in mind, Jews join airport protests of Trump’s directive
By Ron Kampeas
DULLES, Va. — The Israeli-born high-tech millionaire gathered his family after turning on CNN. The rabbi who leads an interfaith group got a text from a Muslim friend. The corporate lawyer was tracking a pro-bono email list she’s on.
Within a few hours, all of them had descended on Dulles Airport, about 25 miles outside of the nation’s capital.
They were among the thousands of Americans who met at major international airports across the country Saturday to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order barring entry to citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries. In the plight of those refused entry, many Jews saw something akin to what their forebears endured as they attempted to flee Nazi-occupied Europe.
Some noted cruel irony in the president’s order coming down Friday, which was International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The Dallas Holocaust Museum responded to the president:
“As part of our mission, we host an annual commemoration for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, established by the UN to mark the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz,” a press release read. “We appreciate the comments of the president to remember the 11 million who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazi regime in the Holocaust, but we believe it is critically important to recognize and acknowledge that, at its core, the Holocaust was a genocide against the Jewish populations of Germany and those countries and territories occupied by the Nazis.”
Trump’s directive blocks for 120 days all refugees from entering the country, with an indefinite ban on those from Syria, and prevents for 90 days entry into the United States by citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Chava Brandress, a corporate lawyer, said she belongs to a pro-bono legal listserv, and her email “began exploding” Saturday afternoon with tales of foreign nationals being detained after landing at Dulles.
“I felt, ‘I can’t understand how this is happening again,’” said Brandress, 36, recalling how Jews, fleeing Nazi persecution, were turned away from U.S. shores.
At Dulles and the many other major airports where crowds gathered, protesters sang and chanted. They erupted in cheers when a New York judge placed a temporary stay on Trump’s refugee ban — a ruling that prevented scores of refugees and other foreign nationals held by U.S. passport control in the wake of the executive order from being deported.
Hundreds also came together outside the Brooklyn Federal Court House, where Judge Ann Donnelly granted the emergency stay, with some chanting “Never again” and holding signs that read “Never Again! Never is Now!” Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who argued the case, said afterward that he had never seen such a public show of support in his two decades in the field.
At New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, protesters packed sidewalks and a parking structure outside Terminal 4. They carried placards slamming the executive order and chanting slogans such as “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here.”
At the international terminal of Los Angeles International Airport, Rabbi Suzanne Singer of Temple Beth El in Riverside, California, voiced opposition to the executive order with hundreds of others. She traveled some 70 miles to be there.
“It’s an absolute outrage that we are keeping people from coming here for refuge,” Singer said. “My mother was a survivor from Auschwitz. As Jews, we know what it’s like to be persecuted.”
“It’s certainly not Jewish values; it’s not American values” to ban people based on religion.
Also at the Los Angeles airport protest was Gabriel Lobet, 18, who just hours earlier had been teaching a Hebrew school class about a Torah portion in which Abraham welcomes a stranger in his midst.
“A core value of my Hebrew school years, and being a bar mitzvah, is that we were strangers, immigrants in a new land,” Lobet said.
“The Dallas Holocaust Museum remembers a time when the United States and other countries denied entry to Jews seeking refuge from the Nazis,” the museum said in the previous statement. “While recognizing today’s different circumstances, we call on our elected officials and citizens to remember that many in the Middle East, both Christian and Muslim, seek refuge because they are targeted by their regimes, ISIS and other actors for persecution and in some cases elimination.
“The ongoing refugee crisis requires the U.S. to balance the security of its citizens with the expectations of refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants to be treated with compassion and respect as they seek refuge in the United States. The U.S. government has a vetting process to make sure that citizen security remains paramount. We encourage our government to complete the vetting of all refugees as quickly and efficiently as possible to minimize their suffering as they seek a better life in the United States of America.”
At Dulles International Airport, Tal Zlotnitsky’s sign read “Our Jewish family stands with Muslim refugees and Muslim Americans.”
Zlotnitsky, 43, his wife, Miri, and their son, Jacob, 14, had seen the protests at Dulles on CNN and joined. He said he came to the United States from Israel when he was 12. He overstayed his visa and now ran a data analysis firm.
“If we give up our core ideals,” he said, “that’s how the terrorists win.”