Editorial Opinion

Stepping Up to Help Syrian Refugees

By the Editorial Advisory Board

The core message of the High Holidays is expressed in the U’netaneh tokef prayer, which runs through the various good and bad fates that may await us in the coming year and then concludes: “But teshuvah (atonement), tefillah (prayer), and tzedakah (justice) avert the evil decree.” Not only must we atone for our sins and pray for forgiveness, but we must also do works of righteousness.

It is a work of righteousness that the Federation of Greater Hartford has this month embraced the cause of helping the Syrian refugees, whose flight from their war-ravaged homeland is the humanitarian crisis facing the world today. “I just thought we were compelled,” said Federation executive director Howard Sovronsky, who with his board’s support is promoting a fundraising campaign for the refugees organized by the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief.

We Jews, of course, have a special connection to the plight of people fleeing hardship and oppression. In this season of remembrance, we remember our departure from Egypt and our expulsion from the Land of Israel by the Babylonians and Romans in Antiquity, our forced departures from one Western European country after another during the Middle Ages, our often futile efforts to escape pogroms, including the greatest pogrom of all, in modern times. We understand, in a way that no other religious tradition can, the need to help those caught in similar circumstances.

To be sure, financial support means little unless refugees have places to go where they can establish new lives. President Obama’s offer to accept 10,000 more Syrians into this country amounts to little more than a token gesture, given the millions who are now desperately seeking safety and security. It behooves the American Jewish community to urge our government to open the gates wider.

In the meantime, we in Connecticut should go to the Hartford Federation’s Syrian refugee webpage (http://www.jewishhartford.org/donate/in_the_headlines/), click on the “Donate” button, and give generously. Let our collective tzedakah be a good example for Jews and non-Jews throughout the country.

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