Dear Members and Friends,
We have all been moved by the plight of refugees from Syria and elsewhere that have been coming to the shores of Europe seeking a haven from war, violence, famine, desperate poverty and suffering. They walk for days or months, swim, pay people-smugglers - their life savings, sacrifice just about everything to reach lands that will offer a better life for them and their children.
The Torah, our tradition, constantly reminds us, take care of those who are suffering and powerless because we were strangers, were slaves in the land of Egypt.
Memory has power only because it inspires us to act. Our tradition and faith must move us to help. We can do that in several ways.
The world has failed the Syrian people and our other cousins who live across the Middle East. The major powers have let the war in Syria and elsewhere continue for 4 years. It can be and must be stopped. The cost in human lives, the cost of rebuilding the devastation, not to mention the damage to their and our cultural heritage is too high. Press the government of the countries in which you are citizens to take bold action to stop the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, etc. “Don’t stand idly by the blood of your fellow human being!(1)” “The standard you walk by is the standard you accept.(2)”
Refugees are crossing into Europe at a tremendous rate. A testimony to the desperation wrought by the conflicts and devastation they are fleeing. The border countries are largely ill equipped, unable and many are unwilling to manage the massive influx of human beings from other lands. Unsuccessful attempts to keep them out mean smugglers profit, often at the cost of human lives. Many of the refugees are being mistreated, kept in unsuitable locations, and all are in need.
The IJC is starting a collection of warm clothes, toiletries, blankets and baby care items that will be sent on to refugees. Please pack each category separately, and label what is in each package and whether it is for babies, boys, girls, women or men. Toiletries and baby care items must be new and everything must be clean. Bring them when you come to the IJC for services.
If you are able to donate time to helping with any of the relief efforts that are happening in various places in Belgium, please do. My family spent an afternoon in Brussels, sorting donations. The opportunities are not hard to find. While it need not take a lot of time, it is another way to make a real difference in the lives of people who need our support.
We can move our governments, both national and European to do more to help the refugees. They have to be treated humanely, in accordance with laws and treaties which protect them and to which all of our countries are signatory. As refugees are herded onto trains, crammed into crowded camps behind barbed wire and refused entry in various countries the echoes of history, our recent history, cannot be ignored. We must act if “never again” is more than just a slogan. Stand up and push for your country to protect refugees, take them in, house them and provide for their needs. Our governments need to be actively engaged in combating human trafficking and the smuggling of people.
We can do this! With our encouragement, our governments will rise to the occasion. Your voice, every voice, counts!_______________ (1) Leviticus 19: 16 (2) Lt General David Morrisson, Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Armed Forces, speaking at the Global Summit on Prevention of Sexual Violence in Conflict, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZAFEorwqv0
For more information on volunteering locally and for a list of items needed, click here.
For information in French about what the Belgian Red Cross is doing, including setting up temporary camps and opportunities to help or donate, click here.
To help internationally, click here for a list of organisations working directly for and with refugees. For an explanation of the crisis and a further list of organisations that are helping around the globe click here.
Rabbi Ira Goldberg