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Letter to the editor

We, the undersigned leaders of student groups advised out of Jewish Life at Duke, with full support from Jewish Life at Duke, commend Duke University administration for standing against President Trump’s executive order restricting refugee resettlement and immigration to the United States. We ask the administration to again stand for its students and values of inclusivity by standing against President Trump’s revised executive order issued on Monday.

Jewish scripture teaches that “you shall not oppress the stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, since you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9) On 36 occasions, the Torah commands us to remember the experience of being foreigners, strangers and victims of oppression, and our people has been imbued with that spirit ever since.

Throughout our history, Jewish immigration and refugee resettlement have been restricted due to fear and prejudice. Throughout American history, the federal government has time and again restricted immigration and refugee resettlement. Each time has been a moral catastrophe, and we cannot allow for our country to follow the road of intolerance and fear again.

The new executive order continues to threaten immense problems for students, staff and faculty from the affected countries, and it lends credence to the dangerous notion that Muslims are inherently dangerous and un-American. As Jews, we know this otherization, and reject it. We promise to stand with our Muslim peers and all community members afraid of the rising tides of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, homophobia and transphobia seen in desecrated cemeteries, bomb threats, burned mosques and continued violence toward black, brown, undocumented and queer bodies.

Duke University is committed to the ideal of intellectual freedom. By banning individuals from certain countries and faiths, the United States loses valuable perspectives and chills the generation of new ideas by members of targeted communities. We ask that Duke expand its excellent reputation by planning with targeted community members for continuing their education and careers unhindered, and by opposing the revised order with all the vigor brought to bear on the original. We ask this not just because we believe it is the Jewish thing to do, but because such moral fiber is part of the “Duke Difference” that has brought so many to this school.

This is not a time for silence or timidity. We are ready to do whatever we, both as Jewish Life-affiliated student groups and as members of the Duke community, can do to assist in efforts to keep our university a place of learning, growth, and opportunity for all. We look forward to working with Duke administration, the wider Duke community and with all of the communities affected.


Benjamin Africk, Jewish Student Union

Raquel Levy, Co-President of Challah for Hunger

Rechel Geiger, Co-President of Challah for Hunger

Joshua Curtis, Co-President of J Street U Duke

Benjamin Klein, Co-President of J Street U Duke

Sophie Bell, Co-President of the Coalition for Preserving Memory

Jennifer Herz, Co-President of the Coalition for Preserving Memory

Isabel Aptman, President of Duke Israel Public Affairs Committee

Jackson Prince, President of The Untitled Identity Project


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