National Refugee Shabbat


National Refugee Shabbat 5780, which will take place on March 20-21, 2020*, is a moment for congregations, organizations, and individuals around the country to dedicate a Shabbat experience to refugees and asylum seekers. This special Shabbat has even gone international with communities in Canada, Europe, and around the world taking part.

(*If this date does not work for you or your community, feel free to register your participation below and simply choose another date in Spring 2020 that works with your calendar).


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, the policies of the current administration are grinding the U.S. refugee admissions program to a halt, imposing extreme limits on the ability of asylum seekers to find safety in our country, and cutting humanitarian aid. The Jewish movement for refugees in the U.S. has grown exponentially since 2015, with thousands of individuals, hundreds of congregations, and many organizations advocating for, volunteering with, and raising awareness about refugees and asylum seekers around the country and the world. The involvement of our community has made a difference.

Building on the momentum of last year's National Refugee Shabbat, in which nearly 300 congregations across the United States and abroad participated, this National Refugee Shabbat will be an opportunity to once again raise awareness in our community, to recognize the work that has been done, and to reaffirm our commitment to welcoming refugees and asylum seekers.


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.

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).

For individuals and congregations alike, explore the HIAS National Refugee Shabbat 5780-2020 Programming Content Resource, which includes several do-it-yourself-style educational programs. You may find this resource helpful as you build out your programming. In addition to programming ideas, the Programming Content Resource includes a liturgical reading, sermon talking points, and a text study. For Canadian congregations and individuals, take a look at this supplement produced by NRS co-sponsor JIAS. For individuals specifically, check out this list of ways to take action.

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.

HIAS has limited capacity to provide a staff speaker for NRS programs.  There is space in the registration form to indicate your interest in this opportunity. We anticipate that interest will outweigh capacity, and we encourage you to move forward with plans that are not built with an assumption of a HIAS speaker’s participation. We will do our best to meet as many requests as possible, and, for those we are unable to accommodate for National Refugee Shabbat, we are happy to touch base about opportunities to bring in a speaker at other times during the year.




Academy for Jewish Religion (AJR)

American Jewish Committee (AJC)

American Jewish World Service (AJWS)

Anti-Defamation League (ADL)

Canadian Council for Reform Judaism (CCRJ)

Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR)

European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ)

Jewish Immigrant Aid Services for Newcomers (JIAS)

Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA)

National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW)

Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies (NJHSA)


The Rabbinical Assembly (RA)

Reconstructing Judaism

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA)

Repair the World

T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights 

Union for Reform Judaism (URJ)

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ)



UJA-Federation of New York



Please contact Rabbi Rachel Grant Meyer with any additional questions.



(Note: If you are located in Canada, HIAS will share your registration with our Canadian partner, JIAS Toronto, who will provide resource materials applicable to the Canadian context.)