This is the fifth year that HIAS (Hebrew Aid and Immigration Society) suggested Refugee Shabbat as an opportunity to learn about and reflect on the refugee crisis. Congregations locally and around the world participate. JCARR congregations chose a variety of ways to dedicate a service to this issue.
B’NAI JACOB REFUGEE SHABBAT
B’nai Jacob will be holding their Refugee Shabbat this coming Friday, February 24, 2023. If you would like to attend their service, here is the relevant information. Services are in-person only, and all are welcome.
Major Jonah Barasz, USAF, will discuss his experience as a healthcare professional being deployed in Kuwait in 2021 during the Afghanistan Evacuation. The Barasz family also recently hosted a Ukrainian Jewish Refugee family. They will share their personal motivations for offering their home and their time, and they will reflect on what the experience has meant for their family.
There will be an opportunity to think about how we can support refugees in small and big ways.
A Shabbat dinner will follow the service
Dinner catered by Celin Garcia
Dessert catered by Aminah Alsaleh
$18 per person (Children under age 10 free)
Sign up by Monday, February 20!
REFUGEE SHABBAT REFLECTIONS
We are delighted to bring you some of the talks from participating synagogues, starting with True and Cliff Wolf’f’s thoughts and reflections. First up, this week is Cliff’s D’var Torah. Cliff, a CMI member, worked with refugees for over forty years, most recently as a dedicated JCARR volunteer.
“I must admit that I find public speaking terrifying. In my career, I would give presentations to clients, and even though I felt very confident in the subject matter, I would prepare extensively until I knew the finest details by heart. But when it came time to talk, I still felt a sense of panic. However, once I spoke the first few words, I was fine, but taking that first step was frightening.
Sometimes, though, taking the first step can be far more serious, a life or death matter. So it was with the Israelites’ flight from slavery in Egypt, which we read of in this week’s Torah portion. As Pharaoh’s forces bore down on them from behind, the sea stood ahead of them. When God commanded Moses to raise his arm and the waters parted, they were no doubt incredulous. Imagine facing a path between two walls of water held up by an unseen force. Would it remain in this remarkable condition while they escaped? What would stop the Egyptians from following them. Still, they had to act. They took the first steps, and they were saved.
Throughout Jewish history, we have faced expulsion, mistreatment, threats to our lives and livelihoods. For many of us, our own families’ migration to America was comparatively recent.
On this Refugee Shabbat, we think of our own people’s history alongside the flights from deadly danger among people from Congo, Syria, Iraq, Angola, Afghanistan and Ukraine. Each of the families assisted by JCARR, the Jewish Community Alliance for Refugee Resettlement, faced their own frightening path. With danger behind and uncertainty ahead, each family took those first steps to safety.
Like most of us, JCARR families wanted nothing more than to live their lives in peace. People do not leave their home and everything they’ve ever known without a strong reason. Some languished in refugee camps in Jordan for years. Some walked hundreds of miles through the jungle. Some carried infants as gunfire erupted around them. All of them placed their faith in God. They found the courage to take the first step, and with God’s help, they found refuge in our community.
They often arrive with only their lives, financially destitute, not knowing the language of their new home and sometimes not even the alphabet we use here. JCARR helps them find a place to live, helps them learn to function in their new culture, find jobs, learn to use public transportation or to drive. We help them seek medical and dental care and enroll their children in school. It is hard work, often laborious, but always rewarding.
As Jews, we have a sacred obligation to welcome the stranger, especially those seeking safety from life-threatening danger. Sadly, today’s world sees too many people displaced from their homes and forced to seek shelter in unknown and far away places. While no one person can repair the entire world, each of us can make a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals. In fact, the Talmud teaches that to save one life is to save the whole world.
While helping refugees is JCARR’s primary goal, our work has the added benefit of creating goodwill between Jews, Muslims and other communities who have sometimes shown negative feelings toward Jews. A few members of our JCARR families had confided that they were originally apprehensive about being sponsored by Jews. The chesed we have shown them has built bridges to their families and even to their extended families abroad.
We have an opportunity before us to help save lives by helping refugees, and we will all be better off by pursuing it. Please join us.”
Your contributions sustain the work JCARR is doing.
To donate to JCARR go online to https://jewishnewhaven.org/refugee-resettlement/give. Or send checks, payable to The Jewish Federation, with JCARR in the memo line, to The Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, 360 Amity Road, Woodbridge, 06525. We greatly appreciate your support!