In Hebrew, the word for immigration (hagirah) comes from the same root as the word ger, a word that can mean stranger, foreigner, or other. The word is used frequently in the Torah, most often in mandates to treat strangers living in our midst with respect and decency since we ourselves were once strangers in the Land of Egypt. Indeed, throughout history, the Jewish people have so often been in the position of the stranger, and much of Jewish history can be characterized as a history of constant migration, forced and voluntary relocation, and resettlement. We have settled from Ancient Israel to all corners of the world and back again, moving to North Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and South America. We have spread as far as China, South Africa, Australia, and Chile. And we have even moved again from these "home countries" to the United States as early as the 1600s when the first Spanish and Portuguese Jews settled in New Amsterdam. Jews have been no strangers to immigration, and each year, as we retell the story of the exodus from Egypt, we are reminded of our own immigration stories, and how each of us arrived in the United States.
Suggested Discussion Questions:
Share an immigration story that has been passed down in your family.
How does the Jewish people's history of immigration influence your perspectives on modern day immigration policy?
Time Period: Contemporary (The Yom Kippur War until the present-day)