Driven by our people’s shared experience of persecution and flight, and guided by over 135 years helping refugees find safety and freedom, HIAS and the American Jewish community are working together to protect and welcome refugees and asylum seekers.
For a long time, we helped refugees because they were Jewish; today we help refugees because we are Jewish. As American Jews, our values demand that we ensure the United States remains a place where families fleeing war and persecution can find safety and dignity. Many of our families and ancestors came to this country to rebuild their lives in security, and it is up to all of us to help show that this great American tradition is alive and well.
Communities across the United States, and Jewish communities in particular, are going to great lengths to help the newest Americans. Through our network of thousands of rabbis and hundreds of synagogues, we’ve seen these efforts firsthand. During the week of Thanksgiving, advocates in communities including San Diego,Philadelphia and New York, helped refugees celebrate the holiday for the first time. And over the past year, local congregations around the country have volunteered to furnish apartments for newly arrived refugees, organized monthly potluck dinners, and offered language and job training.
Since the election, thousands of our supporters have signed on to HIAS’ welcome note, letting recently arrived refugees know they can live safely and with dignity here. We are now in the process of translating and delivering this note.
The Jewish community is dedicated to these initiatives because we know all too well the danger of allowing short-sighted and xenophobic rhetoric shape attitudes toward minorities and newcomers. America has always been at its greatest when we have welcomed refugees to our shores and at its weakest when we have shut our doors out of fear. American Jews and HIAS know this better than anyone.
Moving forward, HIAS will continue to work with our partners in the refugee advocate community, our network of local agencies, all levels of government, and most significantly, the many thousands of refugees we help every year, to defend America’s tradition of welcoming and protecting refugees.
Mark Hetfield is the president and CEO of HIAS, the global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees.