A former rabbi to Stephen Miller, President Donald Trump’s senior policy adviser, delivered a fiery rebuke to Miller’s hardline immigration policies during a Rosh Hashanah sermon on Monday, drawing thunderous applause from the congregation.
“The actions that you now encourage President Trump to take make it obvious to me that you didn’t get my or our Jewish message,” said Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of the Beth Shir Shalom synagogue in Santa Monica, California. The synagogue streamed the sermon on Facebook Live.
Comess-Daniels went on to criticize the “zero tolerance” policy Miller helped orchestrate as “completely antithetical to everything I know about Judaism, Jewish law, and Jewish values.”
Miller has become the face of the Trump administration’s most controversial immigration policies, including the family separations, the travel ban, and the dramatic reduction in refugees the United States is accepting.
Comess-Daniels urged Miller to “own what you’ve done” regarding the thousands of families the administration separated, and the roughly 500 remaining children who haven’t yet been reunited with their parents.
“You have permanently damaged the lives and psyches of hundreds of families, and particularly, thousands of children,” he said. “You can choose to accept responsibility for the havoc that you’ve wrought, and the wounds you have inflicted, or not. You can feel that you have deeply wronged these people, or not.”
Comess-Daniels went on to suggest that Miller’s views on immigration were hypocritical, given Jews’ history of immigration.
“We choose to remember and underscore that the quintessential experience of the Jewish people is both the slavery in and the exodus from ancient Egypt,” Comess-Daniels said. “We are all refugees, Mr. Miller.”
He also cited Kindertransport, the mass evacuation of nearly 10,000 Jewish children to the United Kingdom in the months preceding World War II.
“These were Jewish unaccompanied minors,” Comess-Daniels said, using a term the US government reserves for the thousands of mostly Central American children who arrive in the US alone each year, seeking asylum.
Miller’s efforts to restrict both illegal and legal immigration have garnered notoriety in recent months, and the general public has gradually become more aware of his role. He has been heckled multiple times, and his own uncle recently scolded him in a Politico op-ed.
“Acting for so long in the theater of right-wing politics, Stephen and Trump may have become numb to the resultant human tragedy and blind to the hypocrisy of their policy decisions,” David Glosser wrote, calling his nephew an “immigration hypocrite” whose policies would likely have prevented his own ancestors from coming to the US.
“Trump and my nephew both know their immigrant and refugee roots. Yet they repeat the insults and false accusations of earlier generations against these refugees to make them seem less human.”