National Refugee Shabbat
National Refugee Shabbat 2018, which falls on October 19th-20th, is a moment for congregations, organizations, and individuals around the country to create a Shabbat experience dedicated to refugees. The parsha (Torah portion) for this shabbat is Lech Lecha, which describes the beginning of the experience of wandering in search of freedom for the Jewish people. This makes it a particularly meaningful opportunity to deepen our understanding of today’s global refugee crisis, connect with the Jewish movement for refugees, commit (or recommit) to taking action, and either celebrate your community’s achievements in working with refugees or launch new efforts.
We are witnesses to one of the largest humanitarian crises in human history. There are now more than 65 million people who have fled their homes due to persecution and violence. And, yet, in this moment of unprecedented need, our government is grinding the U.S. refugee admissions program to a halt and cutting humanitarian aid. This year, the United States is poised to admit tens of thousands fewer refugees than in years past.
The Jewish movement for refugees in the U.S. has grown exponentially since 2015 - with individuals, congregations, and organizations volunteering, raising awareness, and advocating for refugees around the country and the world. The involvement of our community has made a difference.
This is a moment when we must give voice to our values as Jews and as Americans and stand up for the safety and the lives of people around the world.
National Refugee Shabbat will take place just after the expected announcement of the Presidential Determination - the cap on refugee admissions for the coming year - and just before the 2018 midterm elections. It is the perfect moment to raise awareness in our community, to recognize the work that has been done, and to reaffirm our commitment to welcoming refugees.
WHAT DOES PARTICIPATION ENTAIL?
WHAT WILL HIAS PROVIDE?
Whether you signed up to participate on behalf of your congregation or as an individual hosting an event in your home, there are a number of options for what your National Refugee Shabbat could look like.
For congregations, you might consider including a liturgical reading on the theme of the refugee crisis in Shabbat services and/or dedicating a sermon or text study to the topic. If you have a relationship with a refugee or refugee professional in your local community, consider inviting that person to speak during services. In addition, you might plan a Shabbat dinner program after Friday evening services or a Shabbat lunch program after Saturday morning services.
For those in major metropolitan areas with many congregations working on refugee issues together, we recommend considering coming together for Havdalah and a post-Havdalah program, which will allow you to partner with one another on a larger program and explore programming options with which you might not feel comfortable on Shabbat (e.g., writing, video). In preparation for the 2018 midterm elections, consider inviting local candidates to attend any event you plan as part of the Shabbat.
For individuals and congregations alike, you may find this Programming Content Resource helpful as you build out your programming. The Programming Content Resource includes several programmatic modules:
- an outline for a chamber music concert including compositions from Jewish and contemporary refugees
- a conversational guide for the movie "Human Flow"
- a workshop on having difficult conversations that uses refugee stories to address specific anti-refugee sentiments
- an advocacy session that will guide you through personal and communal story telling that can be used in in-district meetings
Most relevant to congregations - though, of course, available to everyone - the Programming Content Resource includes a liturgical reading, sermon talking points, and a text study.
We encourage you to think through which of these options would be the most appealing to you and/or your community. Congregations and organizations may also want to begin identifying possible community partners (e.g., other synagogues, local organizations, etc.) and procuring the right space for the program.
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