I am delighted to share with you this article in the Boston Globe, and I’d also like to share a few words about how this came about, very much in the spirit of our Congregation. Shortly before Rosh Hashanah, a discussion started on our open listserv about an appropriate reaction to the refugee crisis. A committee of volunteers soon formed to consider options. And on Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Stern spoke movingly of the need for a community response. As you may recall, the refugee committee drafted a proposed statement of action and circulated it to all, and the Rabbi announced that on Yom Kippur afternoon we would have a communal discussion.
On Yom Kippur afternoon about fifty congregants plus the rabbi assembled in the church. Four EC members – David Abromowitz, Larry Borins, Leslie Kramer and Lew Zackin – led us in a discussion to formulate Eitz Chayim’s response to the Syrian refugee situation. We discussed the previously drafted congregational statement, which provided context for the thoughtful and stimulating dialogue that followed. The Eitz Chayim Board then reviewed and approved the statement and EC member Judy Rakowvsky (a former Globe reporter) sent it to the Globe. The Globe assigned a reporter and published the story on October 3. I am proud to be President of this community, where time and again we turn words into actions. You will receive updates as we take further steps in this effort, and you will have every opportunity to contribute in some way as we go forward. If you want to be actively involved, please contact me and I will connect you with the refugee committee.
Thank you, Pam
Statement of Welcome from Eitz Chayim Congregation, Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Syrian and other Refugees
During this holy season of the High Holidays and Eid al-Adha, we witness the vast flight of refugees of all races and religions around the world seeking shelter and safety. We are reminded of our own relatives who sought shelter not that long ago, only to have country after country turn their backs on them. We watch in horror as refugees are tricked by official lies into boarding trains to detention areas, and hear echoes of other trains to camps. We listen to a government leader openly declare that certain refugees should be turned away because they would dilute Europe’s “Christian values” and we remember past demagogues spewing fear of other religions. And here at home we are baffled to learn that America has only managed to accept 1500 Syrian refugees and plans only a minor increase in that pace for 2016.
At the same time, we are heartened by other reactions. We see the very country that was responsible for murdering so many of our relatives and other “outsiders” not that many decades ago now throwing its doors open the widest to today’s refugees. We see a Pope leading by example, having the Vatican personally take in people of another faith and save them from a worse fate, and calling on Catholics worldwide to do the same.
As a congregation, we could not contemplate coming together on the Day of Atonement without having spoken up and done something in our own small way to offer a human and humanitarian response to the current Middle East refugee crisis. As a Jewish community we are acutely aware of the corrosive effects of stereotyping people by religion, and feel particularly moved to reach out to the largely Muslim refugee population fleeing Syria. Accordingly, Congregation Eitz Chayim has resolved to take the following actions, and urges communities of faith across the country to take similar actions:
1) We offer, as a congregation and to the extent possible, to sponsor and host one or more Syrian refugee families to come to the United States to live in our community.
2) We call on our government to immediately and expeditiously increase the quota for Syrian refugee entry into the U.S. to 100,000 or more rather than the 10,000 that it has agreed to for this year. This is widely estimated to be the fair share for the U.S.
3) We also call on our country to expedite its relief process, and to provide the funds necessary to take in more refugees responsibly. Leaders are currently estimating that it will take at least a year to vet a refugee before granting them refugee status.
We know that these steps alone are only part of the solution, but these are actions we can take today to address the crisis.