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San Diego Jewish Community Support Refugees and Immigrants With “We Were Once Strangers Too” Event

More than 800 people gathered at Congregation Beth El in La Jolla on Thursday, Feb. 2, for a demonstration of solidarity by the Jewish community in support of refugees and immigrants.

Organized by four San Diego Jewish nonprofits – the Anti-Defamation League of San Diego County, Jewish Family Service of San Diego, Jewish Federation of San Diego and Leichtag Foundation – attendees heard from prominent religious and community leaders about taking action against the ban, and were reminded of the Jewish community’s history as refugees and immigrants.

“We cannot paint religions, nations or peoples with one broad brush,” said Charlene Seidle, executive vice president of the Leichtag Foundation. “At the core of our Jewish texts, we are commanded 36 times to welcome the stranger. Jews stand together with refugees and immigrants. Diversity is our strength.”

Speakers included representatives from the convening organizations, Rabbi Yael Ridberg from Congregation Dor Hadash, Rabbi Nadav Caine from the San Diego Rabbinic Association, Rabbi Scott Meltzer from Ohr Shalom Synagogue, Rabbi Avi Libman from Congregation Beth El, City Councilmember Barbara Bry and California State Assemblymember Todd Gloria.

Jewish Family Service of San Diego (JFS) CEO Michael Hopkins said, “We resettle refugees from war zones around the world not because they’re Jewish, but because we are. There are 129 people who were already positioned to be resettled by JFS and have had their immigration process halted.”

“While there’s a sense that we’re alone, San Diego has made it clear that we stand with immigrants, and the state of California has made it clear that our values are not for sale,” said State Assemblymember Todd Gloria.

After the speeches, attendees worked their way around the room filling out postcards, learning about SB 54 that prevents the use of California resources for mass deportations, getting the facts on the refugee screening and resettlement process in the U.S., learning about volunteer opportunities, and more.

Councilmember Barbara Bry said, “Last week’s event brought together hundreds from different backgrounds to condemn the misguided executive order banning some refugees from our country. As a mother and grandmother, I want to leave the world a better place for the next generation. I want my children and grandchildren to know that I stood with refugees in these uncertain and divisive times.”

Supporting organizations of the event included Camp Mountain Chai, Congregation Beth Am – San Diego, Congregation Beth El, Congregation Beth Israel of San Diego, Congregation Dor Hadash of San Diego, Hillel of San Diego, The Jewish Collaborative of San Diego, Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego, JCC San Diego – Lawrence Family JCC, Ken Jewish Community, Ohr Shalom Synagogue, San Diego Rabbinical Association (SDRA), Temple Emanu-El of San Diego, Temple Etz Rimon and Temple Solel, Cardiff-by-the-Sea.


About Anti-Defamation League of San Diego County
The Anti-Defamation League of San Diego County (ADL) has been serving the San Diego and Imperial Counties since 1978. Our office strives to keep the community safe through Education, Protection, and Investigation. The ADL is supported by strong lay leadership to effectuate its programs, and the Region has an outstanding cadre of lay leaders and committee members who work with our staff on a daily basis.

These teams work hard to deliver educational programs falling within the A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE ® Institute, our Jewish Student Leadership (Manhigim) Program for 10th and 11th grade students, the Glass Leadership Institute for young professionals; on security programs such as our annual Joseph H. and Dorothy Goldberg Counterterrorism Program for local and federal law enforcement officers; educating and assisting local Jewish institutions on security matters; community outreach; addressing and resolving discrimination complaints, acts of anti-Semitism, hate crimes, and civil rights violations.  The San Diego Regional Office is here to serve the community—to Educate, Protect, and Investigate—all in keeping with the spirit of  stopping “…the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” For more information, visit


About Jewish Federation of San Diego
Inspired by Jewish values, Jewish Federation of San Diego broadens and deepen engagement in Jewish life to strengthen Jewish identity, foster dynamic connections with Israel, and care for all Jews in need. We mobilize our community’s resources, leaders, and organizations to address the community’s most critical needs, creating profound impact locally, in Israel, and around the world. To learn more, visit


About Leichtag Foundation
The Leichtag Foundation honors the legacy of Lee and Toni Leichtag through igniting and inspiring vibrant Jewish life, advancing self-sufficiency and stimulating social entrepreneurship in coastal North San Diego County and Jerusalem. Since its inception in 1991, the Leichtag Foundation has granted over $111 million to 391 different organizations. Of this amount, about $100 million has been granted since becoming independent in late 2007.  For more information, visit

Sandy Young / Ashley Weaver
J. Walcher Communications, (619) 295-7140