Jewish Week: On Refugees, Jews Caught Between Care And Fear

The Jewish Week ran a story on Wednesday entitled, On Refugees, Jews Caught Between Care And Fear. The story notes the Jewish Community's long-running engagement with Syrian refugees, and highlights some of the different reactions to President Obama’s decision last week to authorize the resettlement of at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S. over the next year. They write:

“The United States admits a million legal immigrants a year,” said [HIAS Vice President for Policy and Advocacy Melanie] Nezer. “Most are students, or come on tourist visas. Anyone who wishes us harm would not do it through the resettlement process.”

HIAS, formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, is also using this moment of heightened awareness to mount a domestic advocacy effort, seeking to convince Obama to take in 100,000 Syrian refugees. 

“We see this as an opportunity both to galvanize a response to the Syrian refugee crisis but also to create a context,” said Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, a vice-president at HIAS, which was founded in 1881 to help Jews immigrating from Russia and Eastern Europe. “This didn’t just happen. This has been happening for years, and it’s happening across the globe, but it’s too much for the human spirit to take in sometimes.”

The story also highlights the terrific outpouring of support that HIAS has witnessed in recent weeks, noting: 

“We should understand the wanderer, and know what it means to be fleeing from oppression and seeking liberty,” Rabbi Zeplowitz said. 

He said his congregation has responded to the Syrian exodus by earmarking its quarterly tzedakah, or charity, for HIAS. And he said congregants are also trying to figure out how to help an individual Syrian refugee or family directly.

Like the Community Synagogue, other congregations have called HIAS asking how they can sponsor a refugee family; 3,500 have signed HIAS’ petition calling for the United States to do more about the Syrian refugee crisis and civil war, and rabbis have called wanting to address the subject from the bima.

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