Remarks Given by Rabbi Lisa Grushcow at the DREAM Sabbath Press Conference on July 12, 2011 at the U.S. Capitol

Thank you, Senator [Durbin], for your leadership.

Recently, I met with a young couple for premarital counseling for a couple whose wedding I will be officiating at in September. And their stories were really striking to me. Both of them came from the former Soviet Union as children, one at the age of six, one at the age of nine, and their parents came, as they put it, with “two-hundred dollars and two suitcases.” It has been a classic story of immigrants in this country who worked their way up, sacrificed for their children’s education to the point of these two young people who are getting married, both are on their way to becoming doctors – one getting an MBA on the way. Both benefiting from and contributing to this society.

And with all these references towards Joseph, I can’t help but add that Joseph didn’t just help his family; he saved the society, the country which had become his home. So the only difference of course between this couple and the DREAMers we speak about today is a piece of paper. Such an important piece of paper and yet such a small thing to determine such a great difference in one’s life.

In Judaism and in our shared traditions we speak about the importance of loving the stranger. But as the Imam acknowledged – here, the commandment of loving one’s neighbor might be the more relevant one, since these youth are so much part of the life and the lifeblood of this country.

I can speak very briefly to my own experience also as an immigrant. So I present, in some ways, a Canadian Jewish voice. My experience is one that since I entered this country in 1999, I have been on the road to citizenship. I had my final finger printing last month. I used the train ride, in fact, to study for my naturalization exam. But, it is so striking to me that so many don’t have the opportunity to take that exam having passed so many in the rest of their schooling. And I know from my own experience, again a very privileged one, a very easy one, that still along the way I’ve had those moments of fear. Fear that I might be separated from my family, from my work, from my home. And I can only imagine what it is to live with that kind of fear on a daily basis.

But I do know this – that the story of the Jewish people, and the story of this country fundamentally is one of immigration, of hard work, of hope, and of dreams and that the DREAM Act has the potential to open the doors to a new generation of DREAMers who want so much to benefit from and contribute to this great society. And so the final thought I’d like to share is this – that in the Jewish tradition, Shabbat (Sabbath) is seen as a taste of the world to come and an opportunity to imagine a world not that is, but that should be. And so on the DREAM Act Sabbath, I pray and I know that we will join together to commit to and to work towards that world that should be. A world in which the DREAM Act is not a dream. Thank you.

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