At sundown tonight, the fifth annual Refugee Shabbat will begin, a program of our longtime partner HIAS. We are reminded that for the first time ever, the total number of displaced persons globally is more than 100 million, a staggering, difficult to comprehend figure.
HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield often notes that HIAS helps refugees today not because they’re Jewish, but because we’re Jewish.
As we tragically know, Jewish history is marked by expulsion, displacement, and wandering — two millennia of wandering — which is why we hold our hands out now to those who find themselves strangers in a strange land. From the comfort of America, where we have found extraordinary refuge, we have a responsibility to offer comfort and hope to others. To make them feel like newcomers, rather than strangers.
This week, we helped do just that.
On Wednesday, the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst (JCH), thanks to UJA’s ongoing support, hosted a job fair for Ukrainian refugees. One thousand job seekers came, lining up patiently on a block in Brooklyn. Some have been in New York for just days, others almost the full 11 months of war. The youngest was 18 years old, the oldest 64. The vast majority were women, some with small children in tow. Most were college graduates and had been professionals in Ukraine.
None know what the future will bring, but while they’re here in New York, they want to be self-sufficient. And if they can, they want to help family back home.