Working to Protect Refugees

October 2018 Newsletter Article

Dear Friends,

HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, was founded in 1881 originally to assist Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe.  In the 130 years since its founding, HIAS has touched the life of nearly every Jewish family in America and now welcomes all who have fled persecution.  HIAS continues to work around the world to protect refugees who have been forced to flee their homelands because of who they are, including ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. For more than 130 years, HIAS has been helping refugees rebuild their lives in safety and dignity.HIAS has a remarkable history and if you would like to learn more you can read about it at their

HIAS, shared this meaningful reading for the High Holidays, and although I did not use it in our services, I’d like to share it with you now:

At once plaintive and energizing, the shofar calls us to remember the depths of suffering that still exist in our world as we are drawn out of our complacency and into action.

The uninterrupted call of tekiah guides our thoughts to the 68 million people around the world still making terrifying journeys away from violence and persecution to search for freedom, sometimes without an end in sight.

The broken call of shevarim remind us of the relentless attempts over the last year to break the long tradition of welcome in our own country, to close our doors to those seeking safety on our shores.

The staccato call of teruah pierces our hearts, its shouts calling us to action. But what will happen when the reverberation of this year’s blasts stops?

For each of us and all of us together, may the commandment to hear the shofar not end when we rise from our seats on this day.           

May we instead continue to sound the shofar for one another, inspiring each other to take action on behalf of the world’s refugees.

May we continue to sound the shofar for those who have closed their ears to the cries of those who are most vulnerable, reminding them of our American and Jewish obligation to welcome, love, and protect the stranger.

HIAS is sponsoring National Refugee Shabbat on October 19-20 and Congregation Shalom will be participating at our Shabbat Services on October 19th.  National Refugee Shabbat 2018 is a moment for congregations, organizations, and individuals around the country to create a Shabbat experience dedicated to refugees. This national event is a 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.  I hope you will join us.

On October 21stat 3:00 pm, our Congregation Adult Education Committee will be hosting the movie Complicit: The Untold Story of Why the Roosevelt Administration Denied Safe Harbor to Jewish Refugees.  This documentary highlights this significant event in Jewish history when refugees from Germany, sailing on the SS St. Louis were turned away from America’s shores. Joining us will be Hans Fisher, one of the few surviving passengers from the boat. If you would like to learn more about the SS St. Louis Legacy Project, please explore their website at  This event is open to the general community.  Please bring friends and neighbors to learn more about this moment in American history and to learn about the parallels to today’s immigration policy.


Rabbi Shoshana M. Perry