Counselor to the President Kelleyanne Conway (L) and Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner raise their hands during the swearing-in of senior staff in the East Room of the White House on January 22, 2017 in Washington, DC.
(photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP)
Some 180 alumni and former staff of a New Jersey yeshiva high school implored graduate Jared Kushner to use his influence with President Donald Trump, his father-in-law, to ease the path for refugees coming to the United States.
In the open letter from “members of the Frisch School Community,” the signatories expressed “alarm” at Trump’s executive order barring immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority nations. Kushner, who serves as a senior adviser to the president, is a 1999 graduate of Frisch, a co-educational Orthodox school in Paramus.
The letter called it a “rare opportunity” to have a Frisch alumnus play “such a critical role in guiding the future of our country.”
“As fellow graduates, students, parents and educators of the Frisch School and proud members of the American Jewish community, we are alarmed by the President’s Executive Order barring immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim majority nations. Your family and all of ours know too well what can happen when America shuts its doors to those most in need,” read the letter, which was made public over the weekend.
Earlier this month, as the letter circulated, the Frisch School’s Facebook page featured a notice saying that the open letter “is in no way representative of the school’s administration, faculty, or board of trustees.”
“Healthy political discourse and debate is a key component of our democratic society,” the notice continued, adding that the school “will continue to remain as a politically neutral space.”
Since the letter began circulating, federal courts, responding to challenges, placed a temporary stay on the executive order based on constitutional grounds.
A revised version of the order could be released this week, The Associated Press reported. According to AP, the new version would focus on the same seven countries, but would only bar entry to those without a visa and who have never entered the United States.
Trump says the refugee ban, meant to be temporary, is necessary to put into place “extreme vetting” procedures to prevent terrorists from entering the country.
In opposing the travel and immigration ban, the Frisch alumni and former staff invoke their families’s experiences, and Kushner’s, as immigrants and refugees. Kushner’s grandparents were Holocaust survivors who came to the United States after spending over three years in a displaced persons camp in Italy.
“Like you, many of us are the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who escaped to this country when the lands of their birth promised almost certain death; like those of your grandparents, many of their parents, siblings and extended families did not make it to our shores and perished in the Holocaust. The memory of the St. Louis rings fresh in our minds as we see refugees from some of the most war-torn countries on this planet barred from entering our country,” the letter continued.
The letter references the Torah calling on Jews “to love and welcome the stranger, for we too were once strangers in Egypt.”
“We implore you, as a Jew and as a graduate of an institution that instilled you with Jewish values, to exercise the influence and access you have to annals of power to ensure others don’t suffer the same fate as millions of our co-religionists. We ask you to ensure they gain the second chance our grandparents received to succeed and thrive in America,” it concluded.