RJCC Resolution on Responding to Global Refugee Crisis

The world is experiencing its worst refugee crisis in history. As Jews, we have known the experience of both fleeing persecution and being “strangers in strange lands,” making us especially sensitive to the plight of today’s refugees. We also believe in our tradition’s instruction that “the stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Lev. 19:33). This principle of welcoming the stranger is repeated 36 times in the Torah, more than any other commandment. Additionally, Judaism emphasizes the importance of loving kindness (chesed), hospitality (hachnasat orchim, and redeeming the captive (piddyon shevuyim). These values have long been reflected in the work of our congregations and URJ resolutions, including Refugees in Canada (1989)Refugees and Sanctuary (1985)Haitian Refugees (1978)Immigration for Stranded Russian Jews (1978) and many others. North American Jews have a particular understanding of these values as many of our ancestors were once refugees themselves, and their plight was met with varying levels of hospitality and welcome. 

The Canadian government has resettled over 45,000 Syrian refugees since November 2015 and accredited community organizations, such as churches, synagogues, and individual groups, to sponsor many of these refugees. Sponsors provide for the costs of refugees’ relocation and their subsequent integration into communities, including the funds needed to support a family for a year. Canada uses annual numeric targets, matched to its processing capacity, for this selection process, thereby eliminating multi-year waiting periods. To safeguard Canada and minimize risk, the refugee selection process applies state-of-the-art security methods.   

Between 2015 and 2017, twelve Reform congregations across Canada raised nearly $500,000 to sponsor 60 refugees across 17 families. Some temples partnered with churches, mosques, and other Jewish congregations and institutions to raise the necessary funds for sponsorship. (Unfortunately, the Canadian government has capped private sponsorships at 1,000 refugees for 2017.) Although this refugee crisis will not be solved by Canada alone, there is an important role for our congregations to play. 

The Reform Jewish Community of Canada resolves to: 

  1. Address the current global refugee crisis as one of historic significance and urgency. 

  2. Recognize that while all refugees should be given an opportunity to reach safe haven and build a better life there are some groups that are in more immediate danger than others, and we need to advocate at the highest levels of our national governments to protect the most vulnerable refugees. 

  3. Recognize the vital role that Canada and the U.S. can play in addressing the global refugee process by welcoming refugees and supporting the work of other nations seeking to address the causes and effects of the global refugee crisis. 

  4. Support the resettlement efforts of the North American congregations by advocating at the local, state, provincial, and federal levels for U.S. and Canadian officials to raise quota caps and strengthen the infrastructure essential for successful refugee resettlement.

  5. Encourage congregations to increase their individual activities in support of refugees by making use of the resources within their communities and also those available through the Religious Action Centre and the RJCC National Social Action Committee including:

  • A list of accredited agencies with which congregations can partner on advocacy and resettlement efforts.

  • Educational materials on the scale and urgency of the plight of refugees as well as the Jewish texts, tradition, and history that inform our commitment to this work.

  • Advocacy materials to assist congregations in making the case to their elected officials.

   6. Support the continued collaboration of U.S. and Canadian congregations on refugee sponsorship efforts, building on the unique cross-border relationship that has developed between congregations in the U.S. and Canada. 

Learn about the RJCC resolution on First Nations. 

Learn about our Canadian Brit Olam.