God tells us 36 times in the Bible to “recall when we were stranger in a foreign land.” Canadian Jews have a moral imperative to help.
Canada welcomed its first Syrian refugee arrivals over the weekend with two flights: one in Toronto’s Pearson International Airport on Thursday, and another which landed at Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport on Saturday. For the foreseeable future those are the only two Canadian airports which will be absorbing Syrian immigrants, according to a press release put out by the Government of Canada.
In addition to the Canadian Government’s promise to bring over 25,000 Syrian refugees by February, Canada is one of the only countries with a private sponsorship option, which allows private individuals or institutions to sponsor Syrian refugees to be brought over. This means that groups of ordinary citizens can provide funds and demonstrate their intention to provide emotional and logistical support to refugee families for one year, thus enabling the absorption of refugees whom the government might not otherwise have been able to afford.
Not surprisingly, various Jewish communities in Canada, recalling the sting of Canada’s foreign policy of the 1930’s and 40’s claiming that “none is too many”, have stepped forward to be among the first to sponsor Syrian refugees immigration to Canada.
Rabbi Dan Moskovitz of Vancouver’s Temple Sholom synagogue spoke to Arutz Sheva about why it was so important for him and his community to be among the first to sponsor a Syrian family’s immigration to Canada.
“We like most people around the world were horrified by the picture of the little boy Ayalan Kurdhi. So that was one reason for me to get involved, due to the humanity of the situation. The second reason for us to get involved is of course the biblical imperative in which God tells the Jewish people 36 times throughout the Torah “remember when you were strangers in the land. We were strangers and we have a moral imperative to help those who need it.”
Rabbi Moskovitz explained that there was a third, far more Canadian imperative to get involved. “The third imperative comes from the Canadian side, and rectifying the horrible black mark on our Canadian history. During World War II, and the Shoah the Canadian Foreign Ministry said that “none are too many” with regards to bringing in refugees. This has become a very well known slogan, and it was a terrible and embarrassing response.”
Rabbi Moskovitz said that a lot of the help that is being offered today has to do with rectifying that stain. “We have offered help during the Cambodian crisis as well as in Bosnia, and we have offered to do our part here as well and help do what we can. To reach out to families and offer help to resettle them and particularly families with young families.”
While providing help with only one or two families as most congregations are doing won’t solve the refugee crisis by itself, it is still an imperative of the highest importance according to Moskivitz. “Even if all the churches and synagogue sponsor a family, that will not solve the crisis, which is the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. The crisis will need to be solved by governments. But for the family that we are saving, it makes all the difference in the world.”
Rabbi Moskovitz recalled the story of a Jewish family as well as a non-Jewish family that the congregation helped bring to Canada during the Bosnian war. Both are now very active members in their respective communities. “We know that if we bring them in and offer them a warm caring community, and integrate them into society, then God Willing they will become part of Canadian society, and contribute to the betterment of our community and our country. The silver lining in this is that it is creating bridges between the Jewish community and the Muslim community in Canada.”
Moskovitz serves as the Chairman of the Community Conference of Reform Rabbis in Canada which is an subgroup of the American Conference of Reform Rabbis. Moskovitz is the Canadian Representative to the larger organization.
To date, Canada has brought over 882 refugees including those from this weekend, wile another 12,527 applications are being processed. Over 1,514 visas have already been issued, but those refugees have not yet made the trip to Canada. Over 69 communitees across Canada (Not including Quebec) are preparing to receive privately sponsored refugees. Quebec itself is expected to receive 10,000 of the refugees, and the Mayor of Montreal has created financial incentives for businesses who hire refugees. (INN)