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Learn about the Jewish Response to Immigration and Refugee Issues at URJ Biennial

Learn about the Jewish Response to Immigration and Refugee Issues at URJ Biennial

We are currently facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Conflict and persecution have led 60 million people to be displaced throughout the world. Although most of the refugees we have been hearing about recently are from Syria, there are refugees from many different countries across the globe.

Over 600,000 of refugees have fled to Europe this year due to its proximity to the Middle East and Northern Africa, causing a major migrant crisis for the members of the European Union.  Some European countries have begun closing their borders, slowing the flow of migrants and causing a backup in many countries. Yet, other countries, like Germany, Austria and Sweden, have pledged to accept many thousands of refugees.  Furthermore, European countries along the migration trail announced yesterday that they would work together to establish holding camps for 100,000 asylum seekers. Although some progress has been made, with winter arriving, migrants, such as those in the Balkans, are faced with harsh winters and very little resources. Many nations, such as Germany, who are still accepting refugees are vowing to protect migrants from the winter, but with 42,000 refugees currently in tents it is difficult to find emergency accommodations.

Although many Jewish communities in North America have been inspired to take action, it is difficult to know what we, in our local communities, can do to help refugees and immigrants throughout the world. As a people who have a history of being strangers and refugees, the Jewish community values welcoming the stranger. As we are taught in Leviticus, “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). In this session you can explore how to translate these values and teachings into action and ensure everyone is welcomed in your community. 

The Jewish community has a long history of welcoming immigrants and refugees and aiding in their resettlement, and at URJ Biennial you can learn more about the Jewish Response to Immigration and Refugee Issues.

Mark Hetfield and Rabbi Jennie Rosenn from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and Rabbis David Cohen and Asher Knight will be leading a workshop entitled: Yearning to Breathe Free: The Jewish Response to Immigration and Refugee Issues. The workshop will take place on Wednesday, November 4 from 3:45 – 5pm. Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS, and Rabbi Jennie Rosenn have mobilized Jewish communities throughout the world to aid in the resettlement of refugees of all faiths and ethnicity. Hearing from Rabbis Knight and Cohen, you will learn about how they have mobilized support in their local communities. This session will give you the understanding and background on the current refugee and immigration issues and then empower you to take action in your local community.

Can't attend Biennial? You can still get involved! Read more about the refugee crisis on our website. Take action and urge law makers the address the refugee crisis by increasing financials support for refugees and welcoming more Syrians into the United States.




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: 10/26/2015