HIGHLAND PARK – Leonard Mogul sold all of his belongings in 1989 before he immigrated to Chicago from Odessa, Ukraine in the hope of having a better life.
“What if [customs and border control] told us they were kidding and we were no longer welcome here? Those refugees want to come here for the same reasons that we came here. It tears me apart how my own country doesn’t realize this,” said Mogul.
Mogul was one of several speakers who addressed approximately 275 people at Congregation Solel’s National Day of Jewish Action for Refugees, a non-partisan event that drew attendees from several communities.
Mogul works for the Eastern European Media and is also involved in helping disadvantaged children and inner city youth. He said many people in the community don’t work with different ethnicities and they don’t necessarily understand about other cultures, which leads to segregation. “Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,’ ” he said.
Jessica Schaffer, director of HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) Chicago, said this was one of four events that occurred in the Chicago area on Feb. 12. The others were in Buffalo Grove, Lake View and Hyde Park.
Schaffer told the congregation about a young Syrian refugee couple and their 18-month-old child who traveled 17 hours from a refugee camp in Istanbul. The family was meant to board a flight to JFK Airport and then onward to another refugee organization in Chicago. Their journey was delayed by President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, but they were able to continue traveling after Washington state and Minnesota filed a lawsuit challenging the order. They arrived in Chicago this week.
Congregant Alan Greene, organizer of Congregation Solel’s National Day of Jewish Action for Refugees, said Solel will seek to sponsor a refugee family and is donating $1,800 to HIAS Chicago.
Rabbi Evan Moffic; photo credit: Bob Kohn
Rabbi Evan Moffic, spiritual leader of Congregation Solel, said anti-Semitism is rising in the United States, as evidenced by the number of hate crimes against Jewish institutions last year. One occurred in a Chicago synagogue, and a Lake Zurich Jewish Community Center was evacuated because of a threat.
“When a culture turns inward and we start to demonize one group, the Jews are usually not far behind,” said Rabbi Moffic. “As peoples’ views of immigrants change and they become more restrictive and narrow that usually portends greater trouble for Jews ahead. Because of our values and our history, we know that we have to stand up for those who are vulnerable in our society … We have one overriding value and that is human dignity.”