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02/09/2023 09:11:22 AM


Rabbi Batsheva Appel

We are observing Refugee Shabbat tonight, a project of HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. If your family came to the United States around the time that mine did, they were probably helped by HIAS. They were founded in 1902, to help welcome Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe. They are the oldest organization assisting refugees and have broadened their mission over the years from assisting specifically Jewish refugees to helping all refugees. They chose this Shabbat, because this week we read in the Book of Exodus about the Exodus, the Hebrews leaving Egypt, crossing the Sea of Reeds, and entering the unknown of the wilderness.

HIAS defines “A refugee is a person who has been forced to flee their home country due to persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group…” It is estimated that there are more than 100 million people in the world who have been forcibly displaced because of persecution and violence. While most of them are internally displaced, there are 32.5 million of them are refugees.  
In every generation, a person is obligated to see themselves as though they came forth from Egypt. [Mishnah Pesachim 10:5] We are told repeatedly in the Torah to welcome the stranger, to treat the stranger fairly, because we were strangers in Egypt. It is a central story because it prompts us to understanding, to empathy, and to action.

Tonight three people who have been working with refugees that arrived in Omaha will share briefly about the work that they are doing.

"Working with refugees, whether face-to-face teaching English or setting up houses for them, has been a wonderful opportunity to welcome the stranger and make them feel a bit less strange in this new culture. It's a way to actually act out and embody the values I hold.  It's also a generational connection in that it's the way I hope someone helped my grandparents and great-grandparents when they arrived in America, and I can now be a link to the future by paying it forward. " 
-Anne Rickover

"Helping is a calling that puts one’s faith in humanity and our own humanity into action.  A calling that we learn by observation and witnessing the emotions of those affected and how that affects us because one day that can be us.  We help to ease the burden of refugees seeking safety, security, and opportunity in a new land for their families and themselves, whether it’s a family of twelve or multiple families we set up homes for. We act out on our God-given ability to be selfless in the service of others and to be the oasis of hope and calm in a world that seems to be troubled, and we help because it’s always the right and moral thing to do." 
-Abdul Mackie

"Volunteering to work with a group helping refugees to settle in Omaha was a new experience for me.  We had very little information about the family, only the number of members and ages of the children. The Restoring Dignity Organization provided new and gently used items at no cost. That inventory was immense and highlighted the generosity of our community. I was amazed by the enthusiasm of the people I was assigned to work with. It was hard work carrying boxes of household goods and furniture up and down stairs and then assembling the beds and dressers.  Those tasks would most likely have been hired out had the move been at the homes of many of the volunteers!  It was very rewarding to set up a home for a family who had been living in temporary quarters for months while waiting to move on with their lives as strangers in a new land."
-Kris Faier

God gathered the dust [of the first human] from the four corners of the world [- red, black, white and green. Red is the blood, black is the innards, and green for the body.] Why from the four corners of the earth? So that if one comes from the east to the west and arrives at the end of their life, as they near departing from the world, it will not be said to them, “This land is not the dust of your body, it's of mine. Go back to where you were created.” Rather, every place that a person walks, from there they were created and from there they will return. [Yalkut Shimoni, Genesis 1:13]


Watch the entirety of Friday’s service here

Watch just the Sermon portion here

Temple Talk is a recap of sermons given from the Bimah for those who missed a Sermon or who wanted to revisit the words spoken at a previous sermon. 

Fri, March 31 2023 9 Nisan 5783