This past Tuesday my colleagues and I had the opportunity to meet the lovely family from Afghanistan that we, along with Beth El Congregation and Congregation Oheb Shalom, are sponsoring for the next year. With warm, welcoming smiles they served us cardamon tea and cake while their 18 month-old happily moved between playing in her room and sharing hugs and some of her toys with us. There was little indication of the horrific journey they had made over the past months and the trauma they must have endured until they began to share their story with us. That they had sheltered their happy, well-adjusted daughter from all of this is a tribute to their strength and resilience.
As I drove away I was filled with pride that our three synagogue communities had once again come together to help a family begin a new life in America after fleeing, or being forced from their home. That pride was immediately tempered by the realization that they are just one family among thousands that had recently fled the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and that the size of the global refugee crisis is all but impossible to comprehend. I look forward to sharing some of these thoughts and experiences with you as part of our participation in HIAS’ Refugee Shabbat this evening.
This morning, however, I awoke to the sobering realization that there are more than a million new refugees since I met our new neighbors JUST THREE DAYS AGO. And that number will only grow as Putin continues his assault against Ukraine.
At services this evening we will offer prayers for the safety and well-being of all refugees. We will express gratitude to the countless people who have been, and continue to be, part of our refugee resettlement efforts. And we will offer a special prayer in support of the people of Ukraine.
But as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught:
“Prayer cannot bring water to parched fields, or mend a broken bridge, or rebuild a ruined city; but prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart, and rebuild a weakened will.”
Prayer is powerful but it is not enough. We also need to take action. And I know that, like me, many of you are frustrated that you cannot do more to help address the human tragedy currently unfolding in Ukraine. But while we cannot put an end to the current aggression, we can still help in material ways.
If you would like to donate to agencies that are on the front lines in the work to address the refugee crisis you might consider making a donation to one of these organizations.
International Rescue Committee
The World Union for Progressive Judaism
HIAS whose mission is to “Welcome the Stranger. Protect the Refugee.”
A few more can be found HERE.
I have also been in contact with Father Hot at the local Ukrainian Church. He is collecting items to ship to Ukraine. I told him that while we are primarily encouraging monetary donations as they will help relief efforts more immediately, we would also help his efforts.
For the next two weeks the bins outside the Religious School Office will be dedicated to collecting items that will be brought to Father Hot’s church. (A huge thank you to Marni Fink for her help in this effort.) Helpful items include:
New socks, clothes and footwear for men, women and children
Hygiene Products (women’s products, diapers, baby wipes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, bar soap)
Baby products including formula
First aid products and first aid kits, including bandages, Tylenol, etc.
Gloves (warm work gloves)
Flashlights and batteries
Yellow duct tape
If you have any questions about the collection please reach out to Marni at firstname.lastname@example.org
A quote that is often misattributed to the Talmud (it actually comes from St. Augustine or St. Ignatious) states,
“Pray as if everything depends upon God, Act as if everything depends upon you.” During services tonight we will cover the prayer part. Beginning this Sunday please help take action. For while we will not end the growing refugee crisis, at least we can do our small part to help.
Rabbi Daniel Cohen