Jewish Communities on Five Continents to Mark HIAS’ 5th Annual Refugee Shabbat

SILVER SPRING, Md. — With its fifth annual Refugee Shabbat, February 3-4, 2023, HIAS is once again calling on Jews around the world to take action on behalf of the 100 million people around the world who are now displaced. The global initiative encourages synagogues, other community organizations, and individuals to dedicate a Shabbat experience to reaffirming support for refugees, at a time when the right to seek asylum is being severely abridged in the U.S. and many other countries.

“Shabbat is a day of rest, but Refugee Shabbat is a day when we commit to action — fulfilling the commandment to welcome the stranger,” said HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield. “This is HIAS’ fifth annual Refugee Shabbat and the most important one yet, as there are more displaced persons now than ever before in human history. We need to do more than pray for solutions, we need to work for solutions.”

This year Refugee Shabbat will feature events in North and South America, and Europe. During a live-streamed Friday evening service, Mark Hetfield will celebrate the work of communities around the U.S. who have supported HIAS, refugees, and asylum seekers. On Sunday, a webinar will look at how climate change is affecting forced migration around the world. Also, an event to kickoff HIAS’ “Welcome to Congress” campaign encouraging U.S. legislators to take action on refugee issues will take place Thursday February 2.

“We’re proud to be marking five years on five continents, with more registrations than we’ve seen during any previous Refugee Shabbat,” said Rabbi Megan Doherty, HIAS Senior Educator, Community Engagement. “We’re thrilled that so many people are signing up for the first time, just as we are excited to see how other communities are participating for the fifth year in a row and have made Refugee Shabbat part of their liturgical calendar, observing not only at their synagogues, but in their homes over Shabbat dinner, and at regional events put together by volunteers in their own neighborhoods around the nation and the world.”

HIAS set the date for the fifth annual Refugee Shabbat earlier than in previous years, so it would align with the Torah portion Beshallach — the iconic reading from the Book of Exodus where the Israelites cross the Red Sea with only what they could carry. This thematic connection with displaced people creates an opportunity to think more deeply about issues affecting refugees and asylum seekers, so participants can move toward taking action.

More than 360 North American congregations and over 20 international congregations have already registered through the HIAS website, along with more than 430 individuals — more than in any previous Refugee Shabbat — have signed up. This year, more than 35 members of HIAS’ national staff are speaking at locations around the country, many in person for the first time since 2019. To learn more, visit the Refugee Shabbat 2023 page at


About HIAS

HIAS is the international Jewish humanitarian organization that provides vital services to refugees and asylum seekers in 22 countries across the globe. We advocate for the rights of all forcibly displaced people to rebuild their lives and seek to create a world in which they find welcome, safety, and opportunity. Learn more and take action at

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