Prayers for Immigrant Families Separated at the Border


With Shabbat approaching, we wanted to offer some original prayers written by rabbinical colleagues for immigrant families being separated at the border.

We hope that you will consider including these in your services this weekend. We also encourage you to add your own prayers, and to share them on social media using the hashtag #prayersforimmigrants. We hope that by sharing these prayers with your kehilla and with your social network, you will encourage others to keep these families in their thoughts and take action to help them.

For other ways that you and your congregation can get involved and engage with this issue, click here.

May you, your kehillah, and those families in crisis experience the renewal of Shabbat Shalom.


A Prayer for Immigrants and Families

By Rabbi Mark B Greenspan

Oceanside, New York

We have stood outside the walls

Having experienced the cruelty to “No.”

We have been the illegal immigrants

Having fled from oppression,

Searching for a better life

For ourselves and our families;

Give us strength and courage

To speak out for those in need of

Our advocacy.

Our memories are long and indelible;

We were a people without a land,

We watched as children were torn

From parents, only a generation ago

Some to the left, others to the right.

How can we be silent, when

We too were told, “You have no home.”


Let us speak out for those who have no voice.

Let us welcome those who have no place to go.

Help us to live up to the best of our ideals

Both as Americans and as Jews. And

Remind us of the words of Your Prophet:

“Turn the hearts of parents to their children

And the hearts of children to their parents

Lest your land become a curse.”


A Prayer for Children

By Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Berkeley, California

Dear God, Protector of Children,

Guardian of All:

We haven’t the words.

We are worse than witnesses.

We are complicit in the abuse of children.

We sin this very moment.

The horror of children torn from parents sends shock waves through our very souls, so we turn away, remembering when children were taken to “baths,” never to see their parents again. Never. Again.

So, Holy One, what could we possibly show You to be worthy of the comfort we seek? Nothing. There is little we can show You today. We show up with tears and signs, protest songs and prayers. While our children sleep in cages. Our children. Our cages.

God, the pain and sadness You must be feeling, as Your image is locked up and abused, as Your children are torn from their children, as cruelty inhabits the seat of American power. What rage You must feel at our wanton sinning. Our country is actively sinning, quickly distracted by callous clothing and damned by a short attention span.

It would be easy, God, to blame one person in one office for this evil. But we know better. We’ve witnessed entire societies stand idly by the misuse of legal systems to oppress others. We’ve seen refugees damned to death by quotas and rules.

It would be easy, God, to give up. Scattershot hatred is in the air. Where to turn. How to help. And, O God, we know there is little chance these poor children, newly huddled tender masses, will be reunited with their parents, little chance these terrorized parents will hold their children again.

God, what would You have us do now?

Perhaps there is hope. Perhaps. If we would but cry Your Tears, burn with Your Rage, act with Your Tender Mercy, and vote with an eye toward Eternity.

Please God, protect us from numbness.

Keep our children’s pain present in our hearts.

Encode our next deeds with Your Love.

There will come a better day. If.



A Limb of a Living Animal

By Rabbi Gadi Capela

Greenport, NY

Earlier this year, when we were dealing with the issue of a path to citizenship for the so-called Dreamers, children born in this country to illegal residents, I wrote “Let My People Stay.” In my essay, I compared the discussion about immigration to that of abortion. I claimed that America may secure its borders, but it cannot ignore the life that developed in its womb, of people willing to leap forward through a bloody door in order to give their families better lives.

This week, it became clearer how antiquated immigration laws can tear through the flesh of families, ripping a limb from a living animal. While America is trying to protect its borders, as have many other countries in the world, America has to remember to protect its spiritual and ethical borders as well.

When Noah and his family left the Ark after the flood, they started a new world. At that point they were given seven basic laws of human conduct that no man or woman should violate. Six of these laws were already given to Adam, the first human being. The Tosefta—the earliest complete rabbinic version of these seven laws—lists them as follows: to have an adjudication process, no idolatry, no blasphemy, no sexual immorality, no bloodshed, and no robbery. The seventh law, the prohibition against tearing and eating the limb of a living animal, was given to Noah when, after the flood, humankind was permitted to consume meat.“However, flesh with its life-blood [in it], you shall not eat.” (Gen. 9:4) The Noahide Laws apply to all of humanity and human matter.

Genesis previously tells us that a family is one flesh: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) A family is one flesh. It doesn’t matter how “tender” the shelter is. The most common reason immigrants leave their home country is to give their children a better life. Of course, there are exceptions: In cases of criminality and other risks, tough immigration laws are necessary to enforce.

The Mishnah tells us that Rabbi Chanina, the Deputy High Priest, says: “Pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for the fear of it, man would swallow his fellow alive.” (Avot 3:2). It’s important to have a strong government, but strong nationalism is good only when it can contribute to the global efforts. Like LGBT and other marginalized populations, these immigrants can become the “unlikely harbingers” with a unique message of social justice—marginalized for a while, like the Israelites in Egypt, but not forever.

USCJ, in partnership with all the major American Jewish movements throughout the United States, joined the JCPA (Jewish Council for Public Affairs) and the ADL (Anti-Defamation League), in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. At the end of his letter, David Bernstein, president and CEO of the JCPA, wrote the following: “There are proven alternatives to the incarceration of families fleeing violence that don’t permanently traumatize young children or make people suffer unnecessarily.”

In the brightest day of the year, let us make the darkness of separation disappear. Amen.

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