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Repair the World

Refugee Resettlement in Texas

A special statement from our leadership regarding our stance in favor of refugee resettlement in Texas

Published: January 21, 2020 

Dear Friends,

On January 10 Governor Greg Abbott announced that he will not allow refugee resettlement to continue in Texas. His decision was authorized by a White House Executive Order that requires each state's governor to give express consent for a state to continue its participation in the Federal refugee resettlement program. Governor Abbott's decision made Texas the first state to close its doors to refugees who have been vetted and approved for resettlement by the United States government, while 42 other states, led by Republican and Democrat governors alike, have expressed their desire to continue welcoming refugees. We believe our Governor's action is misguided and violates the essential Jewish value of welcoming the stranger. 

In response to the Executive Order, HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), Church World Service, and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service sued to block the enforcement of the Executive Order. Last Wednesday, a Federal District Court ruled in their favor. Because this injunction is temporary and the issue ongoing, we write to reaffirm Temple Emanu-El's stance in favor of refugee resettlement in Texas. We are proud to stand once again upon the foundation of Judaism's imperative to welcome the stranger, and Temple's long history in support of immigration rights and the contributions immigrants have made to our country. 

As Jews, we know too well from our own history the consequences of turning away refugees. As the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum wrote in its own statement of opposition to the Governor's decision last week, "If more Americans had spoken out during the 1930s and early 1940s in favor of admitting European Jewish refugees, many lives could have been saved."

In expressing our opposition to the Governor's action, we join not only the Holocaust Museum and the three faith-based organizations that brought the suit, but scores of other organizations from across the political and religious spectrum, including the Catholic Diocese, Episcopal Public Policy Network, and the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

In our annual cycle of Torah readings, we have just begun the Book of Exodus anew. The story is ancient, its imperatives current and clear. We stand with all on the road from oppression to freedom, and especially with refugees who have been thoroughly vetted and legally approved for resettlement. We urge you to join us in this effort, helping to fulfill the deepest aspirations of our tradition and the great promise of America. Listed below are some action steps you can take, along with resources.


Chris Cheniae, President Rabbi David Stern



  1. Call Governor Abbott's office to express concern and ask him to reconsider and rescind his resettlement refusal decision. The Governor's office telephone number is 512-463-2000; A sample phone script and more information can be found on the Temple Responds Facebook group.
  2. Support HIAS' efforts as a Jewish response to refugee and immigrant rights. See HIAS press release.
  3. Volunteer. Contact Nancy Lubar to get involved in apartment re-furbishing for refugees, and Alexandra Horn to volunteer in the Jill Stone Community Garden at Temple, in partnership with IRC Dallas and Vickery Meadow Food Pantry.



  1. Watch Exodus Begins Again, Rabbi David Stern's sermon from Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. 
  2. Read the Congregational Letter from then-President Mark Zilbermann and Rabbi Stern on Jan. 30, 2017. This letter was unanimously affirmed by the Board of Trustees on Feb. 8, 2017.
  3. Read the Dallas Morning News op-ed by Rabbi Nancy Kasten and Rev. George Mason, Jan. 17, 2020.