National Refugee Shabbat 2020


National Refugee Shabbat 5780, which will take place on March 20-21, 2020, is a moment for congregations, organizations, and individuals around the country to dedicate a Shabbat experience to refugees and asylum seekers. 

The COVID-19 outbreak is scary and disruptive. Yet, even as we make adjustments to our lives and how we gather in community, the world’s refugees and asylum seekers still deserve our support. In this time when we are reminded just how interconnected and interdependent we all are, we will continue to show solidarity for refugees and asylum seekers worldwide. 

We encourage congregations, organizations and individuals to explore the list of ways to take action below to identify options that make sense for you and your community in this time of uncertainty. Consider using the time leading up to and following National Refugee Shabbat to take action, as well.

Also, check out the HIAS blog and video gallery for stories that you can share digitally with your community.

Download: The HIAS National Refugee Shabbat 5780-2020 Programming Content Resource includes several do-it-yourself-style educational programs, as well as a liturgical reading, sermon talking points, and a text study. If it is within your Shabbat practice, consider organizing a virtual gathering to discuss the text study or the suggested video (Credible Fear) with community members, family, or friends. For clergy, if your community is gathering virtually, consider using the sermon talking points for a brief 5-minute D’var Torah or the liturgical reading as you light the Shabbat candles.

11 Ways to Take Action this National Refugee Shabbat

1. Learn - If you are staying close to home during this time, check out this list of articles and videos to learn more about the global refugee and asylum crisis and share these resources with family and friends. FaceTime or Skype family and friends to discuss what you have learned!

2. Advocate – Tell your Members of Congress to stand up for the rights, safety and dignity of refugees and asylum seekers. Use these talking points to call or write to your Members of Congress.

3. Update Your Facebook Photo Frame – Show your support for refugees by updating your Facebook profile picture with the HIAS #JewsforRefugees frame. Click here for directions.

4. Join the “Jews for Refugees” Facebook Group - Joining this group is a great way to connect with thousands of other committed individuals across the country, access up-to-the-minute information about the Jewish response to the refugee crisis, and share the actions that you are taking. Click here to join.

5. Donate Your Miles to Asylum Seekers – HIAS has partnered with Miles4Migrants (M4M), a nonprofit charity dedicated to using donated frequent flyer miles and money for the relocation of refugees and those seeking asylum – including families recently separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. HIAS and Miles4Migrants (M4M) will work to identify refugees and asylum seekers who need assistance purchasing airfare to reunite with their families. Donate your frequent flyer miles here the week of National Refugee Shabbat.

6. Buy Refugee-Produced Goods – Support refugees and asylum seekers around the world and in your local community by buying refugee-produced goods and/or researching refugee-owned restaurants in your community and having a meal there. Check out this website to purchase goods made by a collective of African asylum-seeking women living in Tel Aviv, Israel.

7. Give Life to Refugees and Asylum Seekers – In the week leading up to National Refugee Shabbat, set up a Facebook fundraiser to benefit HIAS’ work. 

8. Scholarships for Displaced Students – Research whether your local universities and colleges offer scholarships to refugees and asylum seekers. If not, reach out and ask them to consider starting such a program. Check out Columbia University’s program for an example.

9. Have A Difficult Conversation – Using the HIAS Conversational Guide for How to Talk About Refugees with Family and Friends, commit to having at least one conversation with someone in your life who has expressed concern about welcoming refugees to the United States or even someone who has made disparaging remarks about refugees or asylum seekers.

10. Light Shabbat Candles with Intention – As you welcome Shabbat on March 20, use this reading before lighting Shabbat candles to set an intention to stand with refugees and asylum seekers around the globe.

11. Start A Book Club – Start a book club – for adults or young people – to read books by and about refugees and asylum seekers. Use this list as a jumping off point for suggestions or search google for even more ideas. Consider making your book club virtual and extending an invitation to friends and family who live in other places!


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