Throughout these months of conversation about immigration reform, I have wondered what my grandparents expected
and envisioned when they came to this country over 100 years ago.
I know that they were expecting something better than the lives they knew in Lithuania. They wanted freedom from fear and prejudice, and an opportunity to make a living without restrictions because of who they were. They wanted to be accepted as full citizens in the city and nation where they lived.
Wolf, Pearl, Mendel and Anna - my grandparents - celebrated the Jewish holiday of Passover every year, singing their special melodies about the Israelites moving from bondage to freedom.
I never really made a connection between their freedom in this country and those tunes that my dad and his brothers sang at our Passover table and passed on to my brother and me.
But the connection is there.
In his book "America's Prophet," author Bruce Feiler described the central place of Moses in the lore of the United States. Feiler explained that the biblical story of that humble man leading his people to liberty was adopted from one generation to the next in our country as THE American story.
It is that story that the Hebrew bible intended for us to adopt as a foundation for compassion, empathy, fairness, and a welcoming spirit to all people who would join us in the American experiment.
In Leviticus chapter 19, we hear a powerful call for openness and compassion that has resounded through the ages, a call we cannot ignore: When strangers reside with you in your land, you shall not wrong them. The strangers who reside with you shall be to you as your citizens, and you shall love each one as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
This teaching sets the bar high for how we should approach our neighbors from many places and backgrounds. In our perspectives and our policies, we should respect citizens and aspiring citizens alike as having the potential to add something special to our nation.
This is a central principle that many national legislators have cited over the last year in their approach to new standards for immigration.
These are principles that we in the faith community would like our our own representative, Steve Pearce, to consider in his votes on these crucial issues.
What I want to know from the House of Representatives is this:
that people who want to be citizens now, like my grandparents, Wolf and Pearl and Mendel and Anna, can still have hope for a better life in our country and that they will be welcomed with open arms.
My grandparents entered through Ellis Island because they could along with many other people. Because of our current laws, pathways to entry and citizenship that were once open are now all but closed.
We need leaders who will open pathways and doorways and hearts
so that we can be a welcoming and compassionate nation that values what everyone who lives here can contribute.