This was a week that challenged our capacity to absorb the horrors of the world. Like so many of you, I wanted to avert my eyes watching some of the videos coming out of Kabul. While we may have a diversity of strongly held views regarding the 20 years of U.S. presence in Afghanistan, I am reminded, once again, how deeply and broadly our Jewish community’s commitment is to those seeking refuge and asylum in our country.
Over the last decade our community has come together, time and again, to take action: Our Jewish Family Service of Metrowest led a synagogue effort to host Syrian refugees. Jewish Vocational Service has done extraordinary work with refugee clients. Combined Jewish Philanthropies has partnered with Catholic Charities to help asylum seekers. We at JCRC have supported all these efforts and others, including leading our own efforts with our network and other partners to raise $1.3 million in bond funding, free 280 people from detention, organizing 50 Jewish households to house asylum seekers, and provide legal support for hundreds of asylum seekers.
Together we have demonstrated through our actions that we are committed to actualizing our shared core values: that we stand together on the side of empathy and religious tolerance, that we believe that America must open the gates of compassion to those seeking safety, and that the United States must provide responsible leadership for the protection and resettlement of refugee families.
As Congressman Jake Auchincloss, who served as a platoon commander in Afghanistan, said this week when discussing the need to evacuate local U.S. partners: “It’s an especially resonant point for the Jewish people who know so intimately the story of the refugee.”
When Governor Baker stated that “Massachusetts is ready to assist Afghan refugees seeking safety and peace in America” we at JCRC responded in affirmation, making the commitment that “the Jewish community, our congregations, and our human service agencies, stand ready to work with (him) to assist Afghan Refugees seeking safety and peace in our Commonwealth.”
We don’t yet know exactly what we will be called to do here in Massachusetts in the days and weeks ahead. We are in the early stages of developing a new partnership to engage Jewish communities in the work of resettling refugee families, including, most likely, Afghani refugees in the wake of these latest developments. We are connecting with our partners and are ready to mobilize as needed. Right now you can take action with our partners at HIAS:
Tell the White House: The U.S. Must Evacuate At-Risk Afghans This is the top priority – to demonstrate unwavering public support for at-risk Afghans. Evacuating the refugees is the first step in supporting them.
Learn more about the crisis and our role in the response. Attend the HIAS Briefing Call on Monday, 8/23 at 4:00 p.m. EDT.
To learn more about ways for your community to be involved in supporting refugee families here in Greater Boston, please contact our Director of Synagogue Organizing, Rachie Lewis, and let us know how you stand ready to help as soon as refugees begin arriving.
Together we can reaffirm our commitment to being a welcoming nation that does not close its doors, with the awareness that those who are desperate to leave Afghanistan this week, share the same desires as every generation of American immigrant and refugee families: safety, security and the opportunity to pursue the promise of the American Dream for themselves and their children. We believe that the United States has the moral responsibility and the capacity to welcome refugees. And we know from the experience of earlier generations that welcoming them to participate fully in our society will only enhance our community. We will continue to act on these beliefs, with your partnership.
I’d be remiss if I did not note the other crisis this week: the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti, killing 2,200 people, including 10,000 injured. Boston has a strong and vibrant Haitian community that we at JCRC have been in partnership with over many years. They have formed the MA Haiti Relief Task Force to coordinate a Haitian-American led response to assess needs on the ground, and ensure that all funds and goods collected reach those in need promptly and safely. Please join me in donating.
National Jewish agencies are also taking action to assist in this crisis. The JDC is mobilizing to provide emergency medical equipment and other assistance to those wounded, and American Jewish World Service is delivering critical, emergency aid to communities affected by this earthquake, as well as supporting activists facing the ongoing spread of COVID-19.
These are times that test our bandwidth for empathy and action. Together, let’s meet this test as we have so many times before.
Thank you, and Shabbat Shalom,