News items on assistance to Syrian refugees by Canadian Jewish organizations and individuals.

Toronto’s Congregation Darchei Noam hosts interfaith refugee panel

From left, Martin Mark, Habeeb Alli and Naomi Alboim. Photo by Jodie Shupac for CJ News

From left, Martin Mark, Habeeb Alli and Naomi Alboim. Photo by Jodie Shupac for CJ News

In early February Canadian Jewish News published an article on an interfaith panel on refugees, hosted by Toronto’s Congregation Darchei Noam. Attended by an audience of over 250, and moderated by Globe and Mail international affairs columnist Doug Saunders, the panel discussed efforts by Toronto’s Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities to sponsor and integrate refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict.

Naomi Alboim, who had previously been involved with Ontario’s efforts to resettle refugees from Indochina in the late ’70s and early 80s, noted that up to 35 sponsorship groups had been formed under the umbrella of the Toronto based Jewish Immigrant Aid Services to sponsor Syrian families.

We’re responding to this crisis as Jews, because it’s the right, humanitarian thing to do, because it’s an opportunity to put our values of welcoming the stranger and tikkun olam into practice, and as [many of us are] children of refugees, we’re paying it forward.

Yet again, one can only marvel in amazement and admiration that there exists today a society such as Canada’s, where interfaith groups can come together to help strangers fleeing far off wars and conflicts. In an age where most of the world treats refugees from Syria with hostility and disdain, communities such as Congregation Darchei Noam stand out in serving as a source of compassion, light and humanity in one of the darkest times in living memory for refugees.

It cannot be said enough; no one could have blamed Jewish congregations anywhere in the world if they had kept the Syrian refugee crisis at arm’s length, and left the task of assisting and resettling those refugees to Muslim communities. The fact that so many in the Jewish diaspora have taken the lead in providing assistance to so many Syrians should be remembered,acknowledged and chronicled as long as there are a people called Syrians. We have such few friends left in this world, Syrians have an obligation never to forget those like Toronto’s Congregation Darchei Noam who did indeed help and assist us in our darkest days.

To read the entire article by CJ News, click here.

2016-03-22T00:07:30+00:00 March 22nd, 2016|

Canadian Jewish & Muslim congregations partner to sponsor Syrian family

Temple Har Zion

Canada is one of the few countries in the world where congregations from two different religions can still come together to perform a truly noble and humanitarian deed. While the Levant remains consumed in conflicts fueled by religious and sectarian strife, Canadians remain one of the rare sane people left in the world to whom differences in faith are not a source of division, but an opportunity to do some real, tangible good in these tragic times.

And the example of the humanitarian partnership between Toronto’s Temple Har Zion and the Imam Mahdi Islamic Center to sponsor Syrian refugee families epitomizes the very best of Canadian interfaith values.

Imam Mahid Centre

The Globe and Mail newspaper published an article on the remarkable joint efforts by the Jewish and Muslim congregations to raise $60,000 to sponsor two Syrian families for resettlement in Canada. Working in cooperation with the Jewish Immigration and Aid Services (JIAS), a major Toronto based sponsorship agreement holder, the initiative was launched on March 6th 2016 at an event attended by the Honorable John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Citizenship and Refugees. Remarking on the initiative, the Globe and Mail quoted Mr McCallum as saying;

I went to the mosque, spoke to them and then just walked across the parking with lot with maybe 50 to 100 Muslims into the synagogue, and there were maybe 50 to 100 Jews waiting there. It makes you quite proud to be a Canadian.

“Proud to be a Canadian” indeed. There can hardly be any Arab in the Middle East that retains any rational pride at what Arab societies have become. It has been left to remarkable initiatives such as that between Temple Har Zion and the Imam Mahdi Center, and the compassionate Canadian society that produced the partnership, to offer salvation to Syrian and Iraqi refugees fleeing the failed societies that were Syria and Iraq.

The members of Temple Har Zion and the Imam Mahdi Center came together to save Syrian refugees. One can only hope and pray that the fortunate Syrians who have found salvation in Canada, in due time internalize and adopt the spirit of this remarkable partnership, and the values of the society that was stable enough, and compassionate enough, to offer them a new home.

To donate to the fundraising efforts, please visit the Temple Har Zion’s “Canada Helps” fundraising page.

To read the original Globe and Mail article, click here.

2016-03-15T01:25:47+00:00 March 15th, 2016|

Tablet Magazine; Canadian Jewish congregations & their efforts to sponsor Syrian refugees

Photo by Tablet Magazine

Photo by Tablet Magazine

Tablet Magazine has an excellent article by Philip Moscovitch on the recent efforts by Canadian-Jewish congregations to sponsor and support Syrian refugee families to resettle in Canada. From Vancouver to Alberta, Toronto and Montreal, and many smaller towns and cities, more than two dozen congregations have raised funds and committed to sponsoring Syrian families under Canada’s Private Sponsorship Program.

With no similar program in place in the USA, Jewish congregations in the USA with a desire to assist Syrian refugees, such as the Community Synagogue of Rye, New York, have contributed to the efforts of their Canadian counterparts with huge monetary donations.

The understandable apprehension and ambivalence of many in the Canadian Jewish community to bringing in families from a region whose people have traditionally been hostile to Jews is acknowledged in the article. As one Temple Sholom said; “I don’t hate Muslims, but I am afraid.”

Which makes the efforts by Canada’s Jewish communities to assist Syrians all the more remarkable. The highest expression of humanity is to help a stranger when every survival instinct tells one not to, to take responsibility for a family who may have spent their lives in an environment with values in stark contrast to your own, to give so much effort, time and money on a people who have nothing to offer back except their thanks. The generous sentiments of Jewish communities, in Canada and around the world towards Syrian refugees is not only remarkable, it is miraculous.

To read the original Tablet Magazine article, click here.

2016-02-21T05:15:20+00:00 February 21st, 2016|

Operation Ezra; the efforts of Winnipeg’s Jewish communities to save Yazidi families

Operation Ezra

 

The Canadian Jewish News has an article on the massive efforts by Winnipeg’s Jewish community to sponsor Yazidi families for resettlement in Canada. Working under the name Operation Ezra, the initiative combines the efforts of Winnipeg’s Jewish congregations and groups, including the newly formed “Winnipeg United with Israel“, to save as many Yazidi families as possible.

To date, the initiative has raised over $180,000, enough to sponsor 35 individuals. The first two Yazidi families have been given approval by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to travel to Winnipeg, and should be arriving soon.

There is no doubt that the Yazidi community has been subjected to a genocide at the hands of the so-called self-styled “Islamic State”. But even those Yazidis who have managed to flee Daesh face discrimination and hostility even among other refugee populations. The only ethnic group in the Middle East not to have their own self-protection militias, the Yazidis have been mercilessly persecuted by other groups in the region. Yazidi women and girls captured by Daesh have been exploited as sex slaves, while Yazidi men were massacred on a genocidal scale.

Operation Ezra, which shares its name with the 1950s rescue of 130,000 Iraqi Jews to Israel via Cyprus, is the Winnipeg Jewish community’s response to this massive humanitarian catastrophe. The Arab countries in the region have once again failed utterly to step up and counter the barbaric atrocities committed by other fellow Arabs. An ocean and continent away, Canadian Jews have yet again demonstrated humanity, compassion and an tireless energy in saving lives torn apart by a conflict that Canadians could have very easily ignored. In the darkness created by the Middle East’s conflicts, the light of humanity created by groups such as those involved in Operation Ezra shines that much more brightly.

To read the original CJN article, click here.

To read the Operation Ezra website, click here.

2016-02-18T00:09:44+00:00 February 18th, 2016|

Winnipeg Jewish School sponsoring seven refugee families

Gray-Academy

 

Canadian CTV News has a video report on the Winnipeg based Gray Academy of Jewish Education’s sponsorship of seven refugee families, and the donation drive the student body undertook to ensure the families were supplied with household and kitchen items.

To mark its commemoration of Raul Wallenberg day (a Swedish diplomat who saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews) the school organized donations of utensils, towels, toothbrushes and toothpastes and other household items. In the words of one of the students “even if it’s with the little things, any little thing can help them out”

But to a refugee, no act of kindness is too little. Indeed, it is the “little” things that refugees remember. Unwelcoming shop keepers. Dirty looks on public transportation. Unfriendly and hostile neighbors. A refugee can survive in their host country only to the degree to which that society tolerates their presence. With their act of generosity, the students of Gray Academy are telling the families who will soon resettle in Winnipeg; “not only are you tolerated in our city, we welcome you as neighbors and friends, with open arms.”

To a refugee, a donated plate, table cloth or chair symbolizes far more than their material worth. Most refugees would be happy with indifference as opposed to hostility from the communities they settle in. But if household items could speak, each one donated by the students of Gray Academy would say “welcome to Canada.”

To see the CTV video report click here.

 

2016-02-07T20:12:39+00:00 February 7th, 2016|

Toronto Jewish school sponsoring Syrian refugee family

ppdjds-logo-v2Times of Israel has a remarkable article on the efforts of the Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School in Toronto, Canada, to sponsor a Syrian refugee family for resettlement to Canada. The school is working with the JIAS, a local sponsorship agreement holder, to help resettle a family of four.

With a student body of just 143, the school managed to raise $36,000 to fund the sponsorship effort. With the family expected to arrive in Toronto soon, students have been busy creating welcome cards, some even going so far as to look up phrases of welcome in Arabic.

To read the entire article click here.

2016-01-26T10:56:24+00:00 January 26th, 2016|

Saskatoon Jewish congregation & Islamic association join to sponsor Syrian refugee family

Congregation Agudas Israel

Saskatoon’s The Star Phoenix has a very uplifting article on the joint efforts of the Congregation Agudas Israel and the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan to sponsor a Syrian refugee family to resettle in Saskatchewan, Canada. The two organizations have formed the Children of Abraham Refugee Sponsors of Saskatoon to work through the private sponsorship process.

Omaer Jamil, president of the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan, is quoted as saying;

“One of the things is to break down the stereotypical idea of Muslims and Jews not being able to get along,” he said.

“The other is to help bring in a Syrian family — it’s just a good thing to do, a benefit for everybody involved. There are people suffering. If we can help them in any way, we’d love to do it.”

Harold Schiffman, president of Congregation Agudas Israel mentions past history, and the difficulty some European Jews had in seeking refuge in Canada during the Second World War.

“From a personal perspective, one of the difficult things is, I know there were opportunities for more Jews to come to Canada during the Mackenzie King era and some boats were turned away. I don’t want to see that sort of thing happen again,”

To read the entire article click here.

2016-01-12T07:36:29+00:00 January 12th, 2016|

Vancouver based Temple Sholom sponsoring two Syrian refugee families

temple-sholom-vancouver_CBC News has an article on the efforts of Vancouver based Sholom Temple, a Jewish congregation, to sponsor two Syrian refugee families to resettle in Canada. To date members of the congregation have raised over CND $40,000 towards the sponsorship effort.

Rabbi Dan Moskovitz is quoted in the article;

It says 36 times in the Bible in the Old Testament to love the stranger…You don’t repeat something 36 times in the Bible unless it’s really, really important, and this is our obligation to see ourselves as them and to do what we can to save lives

While acknowledging that some members of the congregation had concerns about the sponsorship effort, considering the decades of hostilities between Israel and Syria, and the wide prevalence of antisemitism in the Middle East, Rabbi Moskovitz expressed his hope that the “effort will also work towards peace between Jews and Syrians.”

One by one, family by family, we can build bridges of understanding and hopefully reduce, at least on the micro scale, the conflict between the peoples

To read the entire article, click here.

2016-01-08T21:49:36+00:00 January 8th, 2016|