Photo Credit: Rabbi Bruk
Rabbi Bruk with Courtney/Shoshana

If you have a beating heart, the images of families floating across the Mediterranean, hoping to survive, are sure to make you cry.

It’s gut wrenching to know that in the era of Facebook, FaceTime, Instagram and Twitter, humanity is still capable of sitting on the sidelines as so many children are slaughtered, maimed, and exiled from their homes.


I have no doubt my fellow Americans are truly bothered when seeing such horrific images.

But what about the “refugee” down the block? What about your child’s classmate who’s too hungry to do his or her homework? What about the child here in Bozeman, Montana who has never had a well visit with a pediatrician or a dental check up and doesn’t know if a drunk “parent” is going to wake up in time to serve them breakfast?

Merriam-Webster defines “refugee” as “one who flees; especially a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution.”

But shouldn’t the definition be broadened to someone seeking refuge – period?

According to government statistics, on an average day in the United States more than 100,000 foster-care children are yearning to be adopted. Is this not a refugee crisis within our own borders?

As an adoptive father of four, I am keenly aware of how challenging it can be to meet the needs of these children. I don’t expect every American to foster or adopt children. But shouldn’t the “Welcome Refugees” sign be held high not only at our nation’s airports but in our local communities as well? Wouldn’t it be noble and merciful if we were to hold up signs saying “Welcome Johnny from Down the Block” or “No One Chooses to Be a Refugee, Including Maya from Butte, America”?

Last August a lovely 12-year-old girl, Courtney, joined our Gan Israel summer camp in Bozeman. Her mom died tragically when little Courtney was five years old and her dad, who loved her a lot, didn’t raise her with the stability that each precious child deserves.

With the encouragement of her beloved grammie, she spent two weeks in our home and loved her time here. But she was unhappy upon returning to her everyday living situation, and the question arose: Should we take her in as our own?

Chavie and I had adopted three babies, but a pre-teen? Unlike babies, they come with “baggage” that affects their every day, their every thought, their every emotion.

Courtney was placed by God at our doorstep and we needed to answer God’s call. I know God would have understood had we said, “Sorry, we just can’t. We aren’t cut out for this.”

But how could we?

We said yes.

On Thursday, September 1, 2016, Courtney – AKA Shoshana, which means Rose in Hebrew – joined our family. Her adoption has now been finalized. She’s an amazing, talented, smart, and fun young woman and she will undoubtedly grow to boundless heights.

Does that mean she’s always easy? Not in the slightest. Are any girls her age easy?

Does she have a lot to repair internally? She would be the first to say so.

But does she have a glowing soul that is in love with Judaism and is she a remarkable older sister to Chaya, Zeesy, and Menny? You bet!

I know that, like our Shoshana, there are so many gem-like souls out there who need a loving, nurturing, and non-abusive home. They don’t always scream for help, because so often they are certain no one is listening.

May God bless all the Courtneys of the United States to find parents who view them as the Shoshanas they are.

Don’t ever give up.

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Rabbi Chaim Bruk is executive director of Chabad Lubavitch of Montana and spiritual leader of The Shul of Bozeman. He can be reached at [email protected].