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For We Were Once Strangers in the Land of Egypt

For We Were Once Strangers in the Land of Egypt

Since my first day working on the Syrian refugee crisis, the response of the Jewish community has been inspiring. My inbox has been flooded with emails and my phone with calls about how we, as a Reform Jewish Community, can take action to aid this crisis.

I am not surprised to see such a powerful response from our community demonstrating that we understand our history of being strangers and refugees from Egypt through modern history. Leviticus states, “The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (19:33). From what I’ve experienced, the Reform Jewish community is ready to welcome these refugees into our communities and love them as ourselves.

I wish I could answer all the questions I’ve been getting with yes, you can directly help a Syrian refugee family by adopting them into your community and creating a welcoming home for them in the United States. Although at this time that is not a possibility in the United States, some of our Canadian congregations have begun the process to adopt a family.

Though we in the United States cannot yet invite refugees directly into our community, the actions that we have taken with donations, High Holiday sermons, increased awareness about the issue and over 600 letters to our representatives, have and will continue to have strong impacts.

This summer, some of our Mitzvah Corp teens had the opportunity to work with Syrian patients at Ziv Hospital in Israel. Sarah Jacobs wrote, “I have been close to the crisis, and I have seen the thousands represented as real, living beings, with the same bodies and dreams and hopes as you and me as they struggle to survive in their homeland” and “I hope the Jewish community can look upon Ziv’s example with pride and inspiration, and continue to be informed, compassionate, and willing to pursue justice for these people.”

There is still much we can do to and actions we can take for these refugees:

Rachel Landman is the assistant director of 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy in Byfield, MA, where she ran the inaugural summer Israel program, which focused on exploring Israel through the lens of science and technology. She holds a degree in biology from Hamilton College and served as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. She is an alumna of URJ Crane Lake Camp and grew up at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue in Brooklyn, NY. 

Rachel Landman

Published: 10/02/2015