by Rabbi Menachem Creditor

In Jewish terms, the act of counting residents is unambiguous: everyone matters.[1] The individual – citizen and resident alien alike – that the Torah frames the governing power’s responsibility to count equally every person in its jurisdiction by invoking its opposite: Egyptian slavery.[2] Just as Jewish tradition outlines the responsibility of those in power to provide adequate food, rest, and justice[3], it also obligates residents who are not (yet) citizens to abide by the nation’s covenantal laws.[4] While the very category of ger (resident alien) indicates a legal distinction between citizens and non-citizens, there is no difference in the assertion of communal responsibility for both.[5] The poor, the widow and the orphan of society are to be represented with dignity. Judaism affirms that by counting everyone, we both distribute justice ethically in our midst and we structurally remind ourselves that everyone counts.

[1] Ex. 22:20, 23:9; Lev. 19:33; Deut. 1:16, 10:18-19, 24:17, 19

[2] Lev. 19:34

[3] see Exod. 20:10, 23:12; Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut. 5:14, 24:19-22, for some examples.

[4] Lev 24:16-22; Deut. 29:10

[5] See Jeremiah 7:6; 22:3; Ezekiel 22:7, 29; Zechariah 7:10; Malachi 3:5 for some prophetic responses to injustice perpetrated against resident aliens.