Of Note: Seeking Refuge and Renewal with HIAS' Assistance During the High Holiday Season

Posted by Gideon Aronoff on Fri, Sep 03, 2010 at 15:02 pm

Each year, as we approach the High Holidays and prepare to observe Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, Jews around the world reconsider their actions of the past year in order to recreate their lives anew. This season is a focal point for our spiritual lives as we turn in repentance, but it also represents a central theme in Jewish history and life – a search for refuge, family connection, and shelter that allows us to fulfill our lives and live safely in nurturing homes and communities.

This New Jersey Jewish News article tells of Raisa Sirota, an 83 year old Russian Jewish refugee widow who, with vigilant and tireless assistance from HIAS’ representative in the former Soviet Union (FSU), has been reunited with her family in New Jersey. As we enter the High Holidays, Raisa is entering a new season of her life, finally secure from a history of anti-Semitism and harassment. Raisa’s new life is part of HIAS’ ongoing deep involvement with Russian speaking Jews across the United States, the FSU, Israel, and elsewhere around the world. As head of the Jewish community’s key immigration agency, which has helped over 400,000 Jews from the FSU rebuild their lives in the United States and continues to work with communities and individuals in distress across the FSU, I cherish this aspect of our history and our mission and celebrate with Raisa and her family their first new year together in the United States.

I also will be celebrating that HIAS is able to bring these Jewish values to our work around the world with Jewish and non-Jewish refugees in distress. In Latin America, Africa, Europe, and Israel, HIAS’ dedicated staff strives to ensure that refugees and other forced migrants are able to renew their lives; reunite with families; and find shelter from the adversities that had plagued them, often for decades. One such story is that of a family of refugees from Guinea and Liberia who, with the help of HIAS’ Israeli staff, were able to find refuge with family in the United States.

My gratitude this High Holiday season is enriched immeasurably by the story of Raisa’s resettlement, but also by the following letter we received from this family of African refugees from Israel:

Please allow me to thank you about your efforts done for me and my family. It was an incredible event in my life. Now I regain my life that was gone many years ago, and I have been reunited with my brother with joy and gladness, Long Live HIAS ...

I wish you, your family, and your community a sweet and meaningful holiday season.

Shanah Tovah.

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