Summer 2013 Special Issue: Immigration

Tikkun has several regular sections, such as the Editorials, Politics & Society, Rethinking Religion, and Culture. In addition, most months, it has a special section focusing on one particular topic. For Summer 2013, that topic was immigration.

This was the first issue of the magazine I worked on, and reading the articles, I really began to grasp what Tikkun is all about. All of the writers had perspectives that most would classify as very progressive. They called for the elimination of borders and a complete end to deportation. And many used religious philosophies (Jewish and Evangelical Christian) to back up this argument.

Michael Lerner, a rabbi and one of the founders of Tikkun, opened the section with a strong critique of our current fixation on land ownership, backing it up with teachings from Leviticus, a chapter of the Torah. “The notion that we ‘own’ the land on which we live, foreign though this notion was to many indigenous cultures, seems so intuitive to people in modern, global, capitalist societies that it almost seems sacrilegious to question it. Yet that was precisely what the Torah and Jewish tradition set out to do over two thousand years ago,” wrote Lerner. He went on to explain that Leviticus commands the Jewish people not to plant anything on the land during a “Sabbatical year,” which would occur once every seven years. Anything that grew there naturally would be left available for the poor and homeless, while land owners would be expected to have food stored up in preparation. In turn, every seventh Sabbatical year would be considered a “Jubilee year,” after which all of the land would be divided into equal portions and distributed among the people.

Can you imagine if this were to take place in our current society? If every 49 years, we redistributed all of our land? This may be one of the most extreme political arguments I have ever heard. I can just imagine what my grandparents would say if somebody told them that after working hard to develop their cattle farm for decades, they wouldn’t be able to leave it as a safe place for their children and grandchildren. The idea goes against not only our personal greed, but also our desire to have the ability to build up resources for our descendants. As Rabbi Lerner wrote, it seems almost sacreligious.

Yet that is precisely what I love about Tikkun. It doesn’t merely call for small changes to our existing institutions, our existing culture. It seeks the best possible answer, no matter how controversial. This appeals to my most idealistic side. In fact, that is exactly what Tikkun aims to do– get cynicism out of the way in order to make real changes.

The truth is, if it were the custom in our society to redistribute land every 49 years, my grandparents wouldn’t have the same conviction that they own their land. Moreover, their longing to leave a safe place for their family to stay in case of personal crisis, impoverishment, giant collapse of our unsustainable society, what have you, would be much less necessary. We would already be able to count on having a fair portion of the land. And certainly this system would force us to live in a more communal, compassionate way with our neighbors instead of hiding behind fences and land deeds. We wouldn’t need my grandparents to be protecting us from their graves– we would have a strong, living community to take care of that.

One of the most mind-boggling statements I read in this issue was that open borders were good for the economy. In her article “The New Abolitionism: The Struggle to End Deportation,” Jacqueline Stevens wrote, “Mainstream economists agree that free movement results in a net increase in employment, and in turn to increased government revenues; in other words, immigration is a boon and not a drain on productivity for the private economy and for government coffers.” My first thought upon reading this: How can free movement result in increased employment? If there were a giant influx of people from all over the world to the U.S., wouldn’t there be increased competition and reduced employment for Americans? Only then did I realize that she wasn’t just talking about Americans. She meant a net increase in employment for all of the world’s citizens.

Why should I care more about a stranger in California than a stranger in Mexico? When I think about it, that goes against all of my morals. But these nationalistic ideologies are so deeply ingrained into us that we rarely question them or even think about them at all. I am so happy to be working at an internship this summer that not only teaches me real-world skills of editing, copyediting, and manipulating the computer programs that are so important to journalism these days, but also makes me question my thinking on a daily basis, pushing me to be my best (and yes, most idealistic) self.

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