|Kindertransport (Jewish Child Refugees), 1939|
This issue is very close to home for the Jewish community and we must help. We have religious principles that demand we help the stranger, widow and orphan and care for the most needy. Every Passover we start our seder by recalling aloud how our ancestors were enslaved and then driven from Egypt with only the clothes on their backs. We start the seder by announcing, “Let all who are needy come and share our meal.” That message appears again and again throughout our holidays and our sacred texts.
Helping immigrants and refugees is not just an ancient, holiday message. Our recent history is filled with stories of Jewish refugees forced to run border blockades, held in detention camps and, too often, sent back to the terrible conditions from which they fled. In reading about the problem on our border today, I have asked myself: “How often have I taught the story of the refugee ship, The St. Louis, and the tens of thousands of Jewish refugees who were refused safe harbor in the USA in the 1930s and 40s? How many Israel trips have I led to the Atlit Detention Camp, where the British held thousands of Jewish “Illegal immigrants” outside Haifa in the 1930s and 40s – Jews fleeing or who just survived the Holocaust? How many people have told me they are moved by Leon Uris’ Exodus? And how often have I thought of tracing the footsteps of my own great-grandfather who came to the US in the early 1900s after his first wife and his children all died in Ukraine?” And then I asked, “Why are we – me personally but also the larger Jewish community - absent from providing help on this issue today?” If there is any single issue that resonates with our own historical experience it is this one.
My family and I will be traveling to McAllen, Texas from August 17-21 to assist with aid efforts for children and families fleeing Central America. We are horrified by the circumstances that these people are facing in their home countries but we are inspired to action by the incredible work of the faith-based community in McAllen. Please consider joining us on this mission to South Texas.
We will spend most of our time volunteering in McAllen at The Sacred Heart Catholic Church refugee relief facility that was established by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in early June. We will also spend time with my friend and classmate, Rabbi Claudio Kogan and members of his small Reform congregation, Temple Emanuel of McAllen. I am arranging educational opportunities with civic and religious leaders to help us learn more about the immigration issue. We will learn from those on the front lines and hear the stories of the refugees first hand.
If you cannot travel with us, you can still help. Catholic Charities needs financial donations and basic supplies for the families. They have asked us for new hooded sweatshirts/jackets for the children and light travel blankets. Most of the children or families leave McAllen on long bus rides across the country without enough appropriate clothing to stay warm when needed. We are happy to schlep your donated items with us to Texas and will arrange for future shipments directly to McAllen as needed.
I am so proud that over the past year our congregation has committed itself to helping children in need through initiatives at Sinai House, Wheatley Education Campus and Roosevelt High School. Some of our biggest social action programs last year involved children and human trafficking and the impact of gun violence on children. This mission to McAllen continues that emphasis on children in need. I hope you will join me in working to help these children and refugees find comfort and safety.
If you are interested in joining us or donating, please email directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are planning to fly in and out of San Antonio and rent a car or van to drive to the border. We will likely stay at one of the inexpensive hotels in McAllen.
Tax deductible contributions for this project can be sent directly to the Temple Sinai Rabbi Roos Discretionary Fund. We will present the full amount of all donated funds to our partner organizations in McAllen. You can also donate supplies through this link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/8PR1RNEOL49G/ref=cm_wl_huc_view
On Religious organizations’ efforts to help with this current situation, see http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/07/24/us/us-religious-leaders-embrace-cause-of-immigrant-children.html?_r=0