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Union for Reform Judaism Appeals For International Response to Refugee Crisis: Urgent Plea to U.S. Government Leaders, and Action Steps for North American Citizens

Union for Reform Judaism Appeals For International Response to Refugee Crisis: Urgent Plea to U.S. Government Leaders, and Action Steps for North American Citizens

Contact: Lauren Theodore at 212-650-4154
Max Rosenblum at 202-387-2800

“Difficulty Cannot Be an Excuse for Inaction in the Face of this Humanitarian Crisis”

Sept 10, 2015, New York, NY – The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) is urging both international leaders and North American constituents to respond with strength and commitment to the growing and urgent crisis of refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the region.

Earlier today URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs sent a letter to President Obama and leaders of the Senate and House urging swift and meaningful action to address the refugee crisis unfolding in the Middle East and Europe. "Our great nation must respond immediately by providing safety, food, shelter, refuge, and dignity. How can a nation built by refugees from political persecution turn our back on refugees fleeing religious and political persecution? It cannot," said Rabbi Jacobs in the letter.

In the face of the most pressing refugee crisis since World War II, the Reform Movement is calling on Congress and the Administration to act now, appealing on behalf of the millions of refugees worldwide, including more than 11 million Syrian and Middle Eastern refugees who have been forced to flee their homes because of ongoing violence.

"We are heartened by President Obama's announcement this afternoon that the United States would accept at least 10,000 refugees in the next fiscal year," said Rabbi Jacobs. "We stand ready to work with the White House as we hope Congress will be as well to meet this urgent challenge."

"Every human being must ask him or herself what more can be done to help those in desperate need," said Rabbi Jacobs. "Every human being, including and perhaps especially those who hold public office and make decisions about our nation’s priorities and actions, must act with courage and compassion. I pray that we will rise to meet this challenge, and will all be found to have lived up to our responsibility to care for the poor, the needy, and the stranger among us."

Every individual can help respond to this humanitarian crisis, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism has created several resources and opportunities for people to get involved, including:

  1. Learning more about the refugee crisis, its roots, and the global response
  2. Adding a special prayer to High Holiday observance
  3. Taking action by urging lawmakers to respond
  4. For Canadian Congregations: Sponsoring a refugee family

The text of the letter to the President and Congressional leaders follows:

Dear Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Majority Leader McConnell, Leader Reid and Leader Pelosi:

I write today, on the eve of a new Jewish year, to make an urgent plea on behalf of the refugees from the horrific violence in Syria and elsewhere in the region who so desperately need our support.

In our tradition, the entire month before Rosh HaShanah (the Jewish New Year) is devoted to a searching examination of our words and deeds over the past year. This examination, this accounting, is both personal and communal. So while we anticipate the sweetness of the year to come, we are painfully aware of our own shortcomings and those of the world in which we live.

This year, we find it impossible to close our hearts to the plight of the millions of refugees seeking a haven from violence and persecution. And it is impossible to close our eyes without seeing the helpless body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi from Kobani, Syria, whose father is the only living survivor of his family. In our accounting of the year that is ending, we must face the knowledge that we and the world have thus far failed the Kurdi family and others like them, even as we pledge to do better in the year to come.

The response to this horrific refugee crisis must be international. It cannot be the responsibility of any one entity, nation or even region to address both the crisis’s root causes and its effects. At the same time, we are well aware that it will not be easy to formulate or implement an international response. But that difficulty cannot be an excuse for inaction in the face of this humanitarian crisis. Our great nation must respond immediately by providing safety, food, shelter, refuge, and dignity. How can a nation built by refugees from political persecution turn our back on refugees fleeing religious and political persecution? It cannot. We stand ready to do our part, but we know, as you must, that what is required first and foremost is governmental action.

Next week, Jews will come to synagogues around the world to stand alongside others in the community before our loving God and hold ourselves accountable for our actions and for our inactions. This is a deeply spiritual experience, but it is not one that should be limited to the Jewish people. Every human being must ask him or herself what more can be done to help those in desperate need. Every human being, including and perhaps especially those who hold public office and make decisions about our nation’s priorities and actions, must act with courage and compassion. I pray that we will rise to meet this challenge, and will all be found to have lived up to our responsibility to care for the poor, the needy, and the stranger among us.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose nearly 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit www.rac.org for more.

We are pained and challenged by the millions of refugees worldwide including the plight of the more than 11 million Syrian and Middle Eastern refugees who have been forced to flee their homes because of ongoing violence.