Welcoming the Stranger – Refugee Shabbat and Taking Action

By: Heather Cohen and Eve-Lynn Stein

In honour of World Refugee Day on April 4, acknowledging the war in Ukraine, and in recognition of Passover and its themes of wandering in search of safety, we have planned a special refugee-themed Kabbalat Shabbat for this Friday, April 8. Services will feature Naomi Alboim and you can find out more details here. In the meantime, we wanted to take some time in this post to highlight five refugee-related issues.

Refugee Sponsorship

Many of you may know that in 2015, the DJC sponsored a family of Syrian refugees. You can learn more about the sponsorship here. We are currently working to bring over Aleefa’s mother to reunite her with her family. You can donate to the initiative here.

Canada’s Detention of Refugees

Did you know that Canada incarcerates thousands of people, including those with disabilities, on immigration-related grounds every year in often abusive conditions? You can read all about this horrific practice in this report by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The campaign to convince provincial governments to sever their contracts to hold immigration detainees in provincial jails comes to Ontario in June. Make sure you check out this website in June for actions you can take.

The Crisis at the US-Mexico Border

The situation for refugees and migrants at the US-Mexico border continues to violate international laws meant to protect these vulnerable populations. You can read about Heather’s experience volunteering in an immigration detention facility here. If you speak Spanish and are interested in volunteering either in person or remotely, please do not hesitate to reach out to Heather. You can also volunteer through HIAS.

The War in Ukraine

Almost 3.4 million refugees have fled Ukraine since February 24. For more information about these individuals and where they’ve gone, the UNHCR provides up-to-date statistics here. Canada has launched a temporary residence pathway for those fleeing Ukraine and you can learn more about it and how to support those arriving here.

Those We Left Behind in Afghanistan

In August 2021, as American forces withdrew from Afghanistan and the Taliban regained control of the country, Canadian forces briefly returned to Kabul to evacuate Canadian citizens and Afghan refugees. However, we left many Afghans seeking to flee Taliban rule behind, including those who were especially at risk as a result of helping our forces in Afghanistan. One such group is Afghan law firm, Shajjan & Associates, who the Canadian government contracted with to represent our interests and our mission in Afghanistan. Canadian lawyers are working to bring members of this law firm to Canada. You can read more about the initiative here.

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