Refugee Shabbat

February 3 & 4, 2023/5783

Refugee Shabbat 2023/5783

JIAS, in partnership with HIAS, invites you to an international Shabbat experience in support of refugees

Register here

Refugee Shabbat is an opportunity for Jewish congregations, community groups & individuals around the world to recognize and reaffirm our commitment to refugees. It is also a way to learn more about how we, as Jews and as Canadians, can make a difference.

Participation can be as simple as a discussion around the Shabbat table, inviting a guest speaker to synagogue services, attending a featured program, or sharing the work of your sponsorship group or social action committee with others.

At JIAS, Refugee Shabbat is an opportunity to reflect on our own commitment to this vulnerable population. In honour of JIAS’s centennial year, we committed to privately sponsoring 100 refugees in 2022. Instead, JIAS far surpassed this goal, sponsoring 230 Afghan refugees and an additional 70 refugees from around the world

If you need assistance planning or attending an event, contact Jodi Block jodib@jiastoronto.org.

“Love the stranger among you, because you were once strangers in Egypt” (Leviticus, 19:34).

A Worsening World Refugee Crisis

Over 100 million people around the world have been forced to leave their homes due to natural disasters, conflict, and persecution. Among them are nearly 36.5 million refugees living in temporary, transitory circumstances outside of their country of origin with no possibility of returning safely to their homes.

A Worsening World Refugee Crisis

The Canadian Response

Canada is a world leader in humanitarian resettlement, ranking in first among 26 countries in refugee resettlement.

The government also works in partnership with Canadian citizens and organizations to bring refugees to safety through Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program (PSR), which accounts for two-thirds of Canada’s resettled refugees.

Private sponsorship offers hands-on, community-based support for refugees that has been shown to help refugees achieve slightly better outcomes and become better integrated into their communities than government-sponsored refugees. Canada’s PSR Program has become a model for other countries around the world. In the 40 years since the PSR program began, participants have demonstrated the generosity of spirit that helps define Canada to the world.

Learn more about JIAS’s refugee sponsorship support here.

JIAS Private Sponsorship Refugee Program

JIAS Private Sponsorship Refugee Program

In 2014, JIAS received Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) status from the Canadian government, allowing us to privately sponsor refugees. Today, JIAS remains the only Jewish agency in Canada with this status and works with dozens of community groups and individuals to privately sponsor refugees from around the world from countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea, Rwanda and Vietnam. In the past 7 years, JIAS has supported over 700 refugees through the Private Sponsorship Program. To learn more about the Private Sponsorship of Refugee program, click here.

We See You As Our Past. We See You As Our Future. Join Us.

The Jewish value of ‘welcoming the stranger among us’ is as relevant today as it was 100 years ago. At its heart, to welcome is to see the whole person and ensure their comfort by offering individualized and adaptive support. WE SEE YOU is the JIAS centennial narrative, celebrating the past and ongoing commitment to welcoming and settling immigrants and refugees into the Jewish community and beyond. Learn more about JIAS’s ongoing crisis response here.

Five Ways To Support Refugees

Five Ways To Support Refugees

  1. Share knowledge – Resettling refugees is a proud and important part of Canada’s humanitarian tradition and demonstrates our shared responsibility to people who are displaced and persecuted. However, there are a number of unfounded and negative myths that surround Canada’s refugee resettlement.  This Refugee Shabbat, commit to learning and sharing information from trusted sources.
  1. Have a difficult conversation – Commit to having at least one conversation with someone who has expressed doubt about welcoming refugees to Canada. This Refugee Shabbat, be proud of your commitment to supporting refugees. This is a helpful resource.
  1. Volunteer – Volunteer to support refugees and other vulnerable newcomers.  Research has shown that volunteers have a significant impact on refugee integration, acting as a key defense against social isolation and newcomer despair.  This Refugee Shabbat, consider signing up for these or other opportunities. 
  1. Provide financial support – This Refugee Shabbat, donate to help bring refugees to Canada and provide crucial supports to vulnerable newcomers as they settle and rebuild their lives. 
  1. Save a life – Canada’s Private Sponsorship Program has saved lives. This Refugee Shabbat, inquire if your synagogue or other groups in your community are sponsoring refugees and join their efforts. You can also create your own sponsorship group that can be supported by JIAS.

Questions & Answers

The Torah commands Jews at least 36 times to Welcome the Stranger. One commentary on this repetition suggests that even though it is our experience, even though we should know instinctively based on having been the stranger, it does not necessarily come naturally. We need reminding. The following are some examples from Shmot (Book of Exodus), Dvarim (Deuteronomy) and Vayikra:

(Leviticus): Exodus 22:20
(20) You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:19
(19) You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 19:34
(34) The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the LORD am your God.

The phrase “In our Midst” also relate to the current refugee crisis.

The Torah talks about the stranger “in our midst”.  While most of the world’s refugee are oceans apart from Canada, access to information about their struggles is within easy reach (“in our midst”). The world is witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record, with one person forcibly displaced almost every two seconds because of conflict or persecution.

We honour our Jewish history and experience by upholding the Jewish value to “welcome the stranger.

Government and privately sponsored refugees coming to Canada from overseas undergo a multi-layered screening before arrival, including identity confirmation, health screenings, and rigorous security checks.

Refugees are forced to flee their homes while economic immigrants have the ability to choose where and when to move. Canada recognizes this by having separate programs for refugees and economic immigrants. The number of newcomers that Canada accepts from one group does not affect the other.

Immigrants stimulate the economy and contribute to building Canada into a prosperous country for all. They also help to maintain a stable economy in the face of declining birth rates and an aging labour force.

The cost of healthcare for refugees and refugee claimants, who are typically younger in age, is only a fraction of that of other Canadians.

Refugees come to Canada in a variety of different ways. Privately sponsored refugees are financially supported by the sponsoring citizens and are not eligible for any social assistance during their first year in Canada. Government-sponsored refugees receive minimal financial support from the federal government for a limited time to meet basic food and shelter costs. Refugee claimants in Canada receive Interim Federal Health, limited legal aid and in some provinces social assistance.