National | Religion & Jewish Life

HIAS offers suggestions, digital resources for National Refugee Shabbat March 20-21

HIAS created National Refugee Shabbat 5780 as a moment for congregations, organizations, and individuals around the country to dedicate a Shabbat experience to refugees and asylum seekers. While the National Refugee Shabbat was planned For March 20-21, local congregations such as M’kor Hayim are postponing to a later date because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

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On its website, the organization, which was founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in 1881, says the global COVID-19 outbreak “is scary and disruptive. Yet, even as we make adjustments to our lives and how we gather in community, the world’s refugees and asylum seekers still deserve our support. In this time when we are reminded just how interconnected and interdependent we all are, we will continue to show solidarity for refugees and asylum seekers worldwide.

“We encourage congregations, organizations and individuals to explore the list of ways to take action below to identify resources that make sense for you and your community in accordance with your Shabbat observance. Consider using the time leading up to and following National Refugee Shabbat to take action, as well.

People can check out the HIAS blog and video gallery for stories to share digitally with their communities.

Here are HIAS’ suggestions for 11 ways to take action this National Refugee Shabbat:

1. Learn – If you are staying close to home during this time, check out this list of articles and videos to learn more about the global refugee and asylum crisis and share these resources with family and friends. FaceTime or Skype family and friends to discuss what you have learned!

2. Advocate – Tell your Members of Congress to stand up for the rights, safety and dignity of refugees and asylum seekers. Use these talking points to call or write to your Members of Congress.

3. Update your Facebook photo frame – Show your support for refugees by updating your Facebook profile picture with the HIAS #JewsforRefugees frame. Click here for directions.


4. Join the “Jews for Refugees” Facebook group – Joining this group is a great way to connect with thousands of other committed individuals across the country, access up-to-the-minute information about the Jewish response to the refugee crisis, and share the actions that you are taking. Click here to join.

5. Donate your miles to asylum seekers – HIAS has partnered with Miles4Migrants, a nonprofit charity dedicated to using donated frequent flyer miles and money for the relocation of refugees and those seeking asylum – including families recently separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. HIAS and Miles4Migrants will work to identify refugees and asylum seekers who need assistance purchasing airfare to reunite with their families. Donate your frequent flyer miles here the week of National Refugee Shabbat.

6. Buy refugee-produced goods – Support refugees and asylum seekers around the world and in your local community by buying refugee-produced goods and/or researching refugee-owned restaurants in your community and having a meal there. Check out this website to purchase goods made by a collective of African asylum-seeking women living in Tel Aviv, Israel.

7. Give life to refugees and asylum seekers – In the week leading up to National Refugee Shabbat, set up a Facebook fundraiser to benefit HIAS’ work.

8. Scholarships for displaced students – Research whether your local universities and colleges offer scholarships to refugees and asylum seekers. If not, reach out and ask them to consider starting such a program. Check out Columbia University’s program for an example.

9. Have a difficult conversation – Using the HIAS Conversational Guide for How to Talk About Refugees with Family and Friends, commit to having at least one conversation with someone in your life who has expressed concern about welcoming refugees to the United States or even someone who has made disparaging remarks about refugees or asylum seekers.

10. Light Shabbat candles with intention – As you welcome Shabbat on March 20, use this reading before lighting Shabbat candles to set an intention to stand with refugees and asylum seekers around the globe.

11. Start a book club – Start a book club to read books by and about refugees and asylum seekers. Use this list as a jumping off point for suggestions or search google for even more ideas. Students in grades 2-12 can use this guide to joining the HIAS Student Refugee Virtual Book Club. Adults can also make their book club virtual and extend an invitation to friends and family who live in other places.