A group of American rabbis who recently returned from the Dominican Republic denounced the Caribbean island country’s treatment of Haitian-Dominicans Thursday, Al Jazeera America reported. The rabbis said discrimination faced by people of Haitian descent reminded them of treatment faced by Jews throughout their history.
“This trip to the Dominican Republic strengthened my ability to stand with oppressed Dominicans of Haitian descent as an ally,” Rabbi Ronit Tsadok of IKAR synagogue in Los Angeles said in a press release. “We will raise awareness about the human rights crisis in the Dominican Republic, which echoes some of the most difficult and disturbing chapters of Jewish history.”
The Dominican Republic has passed a series of laws and rulings since 2013 that have threatened Haitians who have entered the country illegally with deportation. Human rights groups have argued that the laws in practice also target Dominicans of Haitian descent who do not have proper documentation of their citizenship, despite being born in the country.
Ten rabbis traveled the island nation last week as part of a six-month program meant to educate leaders in the Jewish community about social justice issues. The Global Justice Fellowship is organized by the American Jewish World Service, a nonprofit humanitarian organization.
“As Jews who understand the consequences of oppression of minorities by states, we stand together for the rights of Dominicans of Haitian descent and other minorities,” Ruth Messinger, president of the American Jewish World Service, said in the press release. “We view standing up for the ‘stranger’ as one of the most Jewish things one can do in our deeply broken world, and that is what our work is about.”
The country has seen a spike in anti-Haitian sentiment amid rising calls for the government to deport Haitian workers. Haitians – some of whom have been in the Dominican Republic for nearly 100 years – have reportedly faced increased discrimination and attacks in recent years.
“It’s creating an environment so intolerable that many see leaving the only country they’ve ever called home as the only solution,” Rabbi Joshua Lesser of Congregation Bet Haverim in Atlanta said in the release.