Peoplehood Papers 19 Explores Jewish Responsibility to Contemporary Refugees

By Gabe Cahn,

Peoplehood Papers 19 Explores Jewish Responsibility to Contemporary Refugees

On World Refugee Day, the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education released its 19th Peoplehood Papers, focusing this year on the Jewish people’s responsibility to refugees in the 21st century.

For You Were Strangers in the Land of Egypt,” consists of 15 essays, divided into three chapters, which explore why Jews should care for refugees, how Jews are responding to the refugee crisis, and what should be done differently to overcome challenges for refugees in Israel.  

The collection of articles, which are also being published online in eJewish Philanthropy, was edited by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education’s Executive Director, Dr. Shlomi Ravid. Created in collaboration with HIAS, the stated goal of the publication was to “initiate a public conversation on Jewish responsibility to refugees and the nature of the 21st century Peoplehood.”

“It is significant to be exploring Jewish responsibility for refugees not only in terms of values and history but also in the context of Jewish Peoplehood. Being refugees is in our DNA and yet, here we are for the first time in history not refugees ourselves, but instead in a position to change the future for today’s refugees,” said HIAS Vice President for Community Engagement Rabbi Jennie Rosenn.

Rosenn, HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield and Kindertransport survivor and refugee advocate Manfred Lindenbaum each penned articles for this edition of the papers.

Additionally, Rabbi Michael L. Feshbach of HIAS Welcome Campaign Congregation Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase partnered with congregant and refugee supporter Karen Green, to author an article entitled, “How Can We Not? Temple Shalom Responds to the Refugee Crisis.”

Rosenn’s article, “The American Jewish Community: Awake and Mobilized,” examines the community’s response to the global refugee crisis more broadly. “Just a few generations ago, it was us on those boats being turned away,” she writes.

And because of that history, “the Jewish community has been at the forefront of the voices saying our nation must do more, and is a leader not only in advocating for refugees, but also in creating welcoming communities.”

In terms of answering the question of why Jews should care for refugees, Manfred Lindenbaum puts it plainly. In his essay, “They Are Us,” Lindebaum writes, “my story is not much different from the plight of sixty-five million refugees all over the world today.”

“I am here today because, in my darkest moments, people reached out and made a difference in my life,” Lindenbaum says. “Just like my experience 79 years ago, if we turn our backs, things will get worse. If we open our arms and embrace the refugees, we will have a better world.”

Finally, Mark Hetfield’s contribution to the papers, “Because We Are Jewish,” presents an in-depth look at HIAS’ evolution from an organization founded to help refugees because they were Jewish, to one that helps refugees because we are Jewish.  

“HIAS has turned Jewish values and history into action–moving from our ‘Exodus period’ to our ‘Leviticus period',” writes Hetfield.

To read the entire Peoplehood Papers 19 collection, click here.

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