National Refugee Shabbat

National Refugee Shabbat 5780/2019-2020, on March 20-21, 2020, is a moment for congregations, organizations, and individuals around the country to create a Shabbat experience dedicated to refugees.


We are witnesses to one of the largest humanitarian crises in human history. There are now more than 70 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.


Your participation in National Refugee Shabbat can be as multifaceted as you would like it to be for your community. It could be the culmination of a week of action on refugee issues, a moment to simply focus on learning more about the global refugee crisis in a Jewish context, or an opportunity to convene Jewish (or interfaith) congregations to learn and chart a course of action together. The choice is yours.


See the list of communities around the country who will be participating in National Refugee Shabbat. If you are participating and do not see your community's name listed, please email Rabbi Rachel Grant Meyer at If you are participating and have created an event page on your community's website or a Facebook event, please email a link to Rabbi Rachel Grant Meyer at so we can link to it from the main event page. 


Download the National Refugee Shabbat Programming Content Resource


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.



Academy for Jewish Religion (AJR)
American Jewish Committee (AJC)
Anti-Defamation League (ADL)
Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA)
National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW)
Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies
The Rabbinical Assembly (RA)
Reconstructing Judaism
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA)
T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Union for Reform Judaism (URJ)
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ)