We Jews know the evil of being urged to leave our homes by vicious enemies who falsely promised escape from the hell on earth they created for us, only to be led to our doom. In 1962, southern segregationists sent African Americans in reverse freedom rides to northern cities by bus with a one-way ticket to nowhere with false promises of great jobs and opportunities.
Today, Governor DeSantis follows in the footsteps of the human traffickers of the past by lying to immigrants with false promises of great jobs and free housing to convince them to travel to Martha’s Vineyard, in a cynical effort to embarrass progressives.
Like DeSantis, Moses once lived an opulent life in a palace in Egypt, the most powerful empire on Earth. He had every material thing his world could offer, but he was not happy when others were suffering. He renounced his position of privilege and sided with the slaves. If he had remained in the palace no one would have heard of him, but by taking up the cause of the outcast, his name is immortalized forever as a champion of freedom and the savior of his people.
In the Torah, Moses commands the Jewish people, “Love the immigrant as yourself, for you were immigrants in the land of Egypt.” (Lev. 19:34). Christian Scripture teaches that Jesus was the exalted son of God, yet he too chose to side with the poor, the widow and the oppressed. When asked how to get into heaven, Jesus replied “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40). If Jesus returned to Florida today with his sandals, dark skin and foreign tongue, DeSantis would send him off with the others to Martha’s Vineyard with false promises of reaching the gates of heaven.
Governor DeSantis, who claims to revere the Bible, has chosen to emulate the whited sepulchers (pure on the outside and a rotten corpse within) that Jesus warned about who in a distant future would falsely claim to preach in his name, but would actually lead the people to perdition. Governor “Wrong” DeSantis uses religion to spread hate and fear rather than peace and love. Unlike DeSantis, Jesus had nothing to say about abortion, leaving this decision up to women, not religious or political authorities.
Pharaoh DeSantis, in the comfort of his gilded palace, has cast his lot not with the slaves, but with the descendants of slaveholders, Proud Boys and Confederate flag wavers, as Florida’s Oppressor-in-Chief. He hopes that his cruelty will endear him to his base and propel him to the Presidency where he can make the White House a bastion of white supremacy.
The Egyptians could not vote Pharaoh out of office and suffered the devastating plagues that Pharaoh brought upon them. President Biden has called upon us to take a stand against oppressors. Nobel Prize winner, and conscience of humanity Elie Wiesel said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.” And the iconic Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, observed, “In a democracy, some are guilty, all are responsible.”
As we head towards the politicians’ Day of Judgment in November, let us act responsibly by choosing leaders who believe in the power of love, not the love of power. Thus, we may come closer to a society where all children are wanted children, where we can all sit under our vine and palm tree and no one with a Bible in one hand and an assault weapon in the other, can make us afraid.