Jewish Immigrants in Ancient Rome: Throw 'em out Trumps Tolerance. By Roger Algase
In my September 8 post, I referred to a POLITICO article: The Pope vs. The Donald, and then proceeded to look at the origins of Pope Francis' message of compassion and support for immigrants in the history of early Christianity itself. I pointed out that, without the general atmosphere of tolerance for and acceptance of Jewish immigrants in the ancient Greco-Roman world, the spread of Christianity, which took place in large part through diaspora Jewish synagogues that were open to both Jewish and non-Jewish supporters, would have been much more difficult.
I will now turn to the Donald Trump side of the POLITICO article and look at some examples of intolerance and exclusion against immigrants in the classical world, using the example of expulsion actions taken against the Jews in ancient Rome under the emperors Tiberius and Claudius in the 1st Century of the Christian Era.
These actions will show that, just as the Pope's anticipated message of compassion for and acceptance of immigrants during his upcoming US visit had its roots in pro-immigrant policies in effect 2,000 years ago, Donald Trump's "immigration plan" calling for mass deportation of Mexicans and other immigrant minorities in the US was not without its classical antecedents.
The following is based on an article by Leonard Victor Rutgers of the Instituto Olandese in Rome entitled: Roman Policy towards the Jews: Expulsions from the City of Rome during the First Century C.E. (University of California, 1994)
The original attitude of the classical Roman rulers toward Jewish immigrants was one of acceptance, as shown in the Acta Pro Judeis (Laws in Favor of the Jews) beginning during the roughly 50 years spanning last half of the 1st Century B.C.E.
"Only then, in the fifty-odd years from Caesar to Augustus, did Roman magistrates pass a number of decrees aimed at protecting the free exercise of the Jewish religion. They decreed that the Jews might gather freely in thiasoi, observe the Sabbath and the Jewish festivals, send money to the Temple in Jerusalem, and enjoy autonomy in their communal affairs. Jews were also absolved from compulsory enrollment in the Roman military."
To be continued in Part 2 of this series.
Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 30 years, he has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants obtain work visas, green cards, and US citizenship. Hie email is firstname.lastname@example.org