(JNi.media) The non-denominational congregation Eitz Chayim in Cambridge, MA, has issued a statement welcoming refugees to their midst and urging the US government to accept more Syrian refugees, The Boston Globe reported. “We are reminded of our own relatives who sought shelter not that long ago, only to have country after country turn their backs on them,” members wrote, and offered concrete help to families who will resettle in Massachusetts in the near future.
“It was not so long ago that our people were stranded and no one particularly wanted to take us in,” Rabbi Liza Stern said. “How dare we not do something?” Stern confessed that some of her members worried that the largely Muslim refugees would hold anti-Semitic views, but said they decided not to be “governed by our fears.”
About 1,300 refugees have settled in Massachusetts since October 2014, according to the Globe—some 350 from Iraq, 271 were from Somalia, and only 52 from Syria. The synagogue held a meeting on Yom Kippur, when they decided to act on behalf of the next wave of refugees. “As a Jewish community, we are acutely aware of the corrosive effects of stereotyping people by religion, and feel particularly moved to reach out to the largely Muslim refugee population fleeing Syria,” they wrote.
Stern said she had no doubt “that this will be a groundswell,” she said.
According to B’nai B’rith International, there are four million Syrian refugees who have escaped war and dire living conditions and an additional seven million Syrian citizens displaced within their country’s borders. The organization notes that “the migrant crisis is no genocide,” even though “some refugees are Christians fleeing religion-based persecution,” since, for the most part these refugees are “simply caught in a terrible crossfire of civil war, starvation, chlorine gassing, and barrel bombing,” and are not fleeing a Holocaust. Nevertheless, BBI says, “it is our shared history of persecution and flight that compels us to act.”
It is expected that the US will accept 85,000 refugees next year and 100,000 in 2017. According to the Globe, the Syrians, like all refugees, will undergo a lengthy screening process before they can enter the US, so that the first arrival may not actually set foot in America for a considerable period of time.
David Abromowitz, the Eitz Chayim member who initiated sparked the effort, said he felt “an overwhelming sense that this was something we should do.”