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How Your Congregation Can Engage in the Refugee Crisis Response

How Your Congregation Can Engage in the Refugee Crisis Response

In response to the largest global refugee crisis since World War II, with 60 million people displaced worldwide, including over 11 million from Syria and the Middle East, in September President Obama announced an increase in refugee resettlement to 85,000 for fiscal year 2016 and 100,000 for 2017. President Obama has also announced that, of the 15,000 additional refugees to be resettled in 2016, 10,000 will be from Syria. Although this increase is a step in the right direction, those numbers are not enough to respond to the crisis in Syria.

Following recent attacks in Paris, some have misguidedly called for an end to the Syrian refugee resettlement program, in the name of national security. Though no system is perfect, the refugee resettlement program is a lengthy and rigorous one designed to affirm a person’s status as a true refugee and to ensure they pose no threat. The U.S. refugee program allows us to uphold our values as a country that is a safe haven and beacon of freedom while also prioritizing national security.

For further background on the refugee crisis, check out our FAQ. Learn about the Reform Movement’s work on responding to the refugee crisis by visiting our resource page.

How can my congregation get involved?

Canadian congregations can sponsor a Syrian refugee family, as resettlement began this week.

Learn from congregations who are already in the process of sponsoring a refugee family:

Rabbi Lisa J. Grushcow, Senior Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom in Montreal, writes of work her congregation is doing to welcome refugees in Canada: “We have already identified two families. I feel privileged to be in the Canadian context, where religious communities are able to sponsor, and where there is governmental will to respond. The timeline is uncertain, but we hope that the first family will arrive in a matter of months.”

United States congregations can connect with your local resettlement agency and learn how you can volunteer with them.

Some of our U.S. congregations have been working with their local agencies to welcome refugees:

Rabbi Sigma Faye Coran, Senior Rabbi at Rockdale Temple in Ohio, wrote about the work her congregation is doing as part of a larger interfaith group (MARCC) in Cincinnati: “Members of K.K. Bene Israel/Rockdale Temple in Cincinnati, Ohio are reaching out to welcome the stranger to our community. It seems many communities around our country have been welcoming refugees through the efforts of local faith organizations.  In Cincinnati, it is Catholic Charities.  MARCC and those congregations present committed to supporting the work of Catholic Charities rather than undermining or duplicating their efforts.  Catholic Charities, in turn, made it simple for us to be part of the work by suggesting ways in which we can help by donating the items that they need in order to ease each family’s transition.”

U.S. congregations can also partner with a Canadian congregation to help them welcome a new Syrian refugee family. For more information contact Legislative Assistant Rachel Landman at 202-387-2800.

How can I get involved?

Canada: In response to this global crisis, Prime Minister Trudeau has committed to accept 25,000 refugees by January 1, 2016. Show your support and urge Prime Minister Trudeau to stand firm in his plan.

United States: Urge your members of Congress to help address this humanitarian crisis by opposing any effort to limit refugees of certain religious backgrounds or those from Syria. Instead, now is the time to increase the number of Syrian refugees welcomed by the U.S. and call on other countries to do the same.

Learn more and connect with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief (JCDR), organizations that are leading the broader Jewish community’s response to the refugee crisis.


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: 12/17/2015