Refugee Resettlement Message
Jul 19 , 2018/Category
6 Av 5778
July 18, 2018
Dear Rodeph Sholom family,
I am about to share some inspiring news with you. Allow me a few words of context.
Jewish history began with immigration. Abraham and Sarah were invited to go to a land God would show them. Ever since, people all over the world have sought to leave untenable circumstances to seek, with God’s help, a home where they would be treated as human beings. Millions of our own people yearned for such compassion in the face of a massive Nazi effort to destroy the Jewish people.
Jewish values dictate that we who were slaves in Egypt, who were reduced to mere numbers tattooed on our arms, would do better when given the opportunity. Watching our government wrench children from their parents, whose only crime was wanting their loved ones to escape a bullet in a skull from a drug lord, we all wanted not only to feel something, but to do something.
That moment has arrived. As I mentioned last year on Yom Kippur, our synagogue made a historic commitment this past September. With approval from our Board and the support of our clergy team and professional staff, we committed to HIAS that our synagogue would resettle a refugee family in New York City. We did not know when that family would come, where they would come from, or what their true needs would be. We knew only that we would do what it takes to give a family refuge in the land of the free.
While we waited, we organized a huge team under the superb leadership of Peter Ehrenberg, Janie Roher, Claudia Wagner and Cantor Shayna De Lowe. We have nearly one hundred volunteers, approximately twenty of whom have been fully vetted by HIAS and have become our steering committee. They have divided responsibilities in the areas such as housing, employment, welcoming, training and medical needs. We have established a real partnership with Temple Emanu-El which is working hand-in-hand with us on this project.
As we watched the plight of refugees worsen, we waited and waited. Finally, in late June, we got word of an imminent arrival, and on July 9, we met at the airport our new friends Shabab and Hussain, refugees originally from Pakistan. They have been joined by our new friend and their friend Rehan, also a refugee originally from Pakistan. To protect their confidentiality (which is of extreme importance to all refugees), we are restricted in what we can say about them. Our congregants who have met them are overwhelmed by their kindness, sincerity and warmth. They are truly appreciative of what we are doing for them and will continue to do during our year-long commitment to assist them in becoming part of their new world.
I know that you are as thrilled by this development as I am. Welcoming strangers into our midst is one of our most important responsibilities as Jews. We are well on our way to honoring this fundamental aspect of our covenantal relationship with God. Surely, you are proud of what we are doing, just as I am proud every day of what we do as a congregation to help repair the world.
We very much need your help in performing this mitzvah. Temple Emanu-El has committed to sharing the cost evenly, but we expect Rodeph Sholom’s bill to be at least $25,000. I am hopeful that many of you can make a meaningful contribution toward our financial obligation to this sacred mitzvah. To participate in this calling and make a donation click here and select “Refugee and Immigration Support Fund” from the drop down menu.
I look forward to the time Shabab, Hussain and Rehan will visit us at Rodeph Sholom. We will keep you posted as best we can, given our concerns for our new friends’ privacy and desire to settle into their new home. This is a true congregational mitzvah. I hope you will join me both in supporting this important project and sharing the pride we all feel as we welcome Shabab, Hussain and Rehan to the land that God has shown them.
Gina and I send our very best wishes for a healthy, peaceful summer.
Rabbi Levine