Every day, we read about tens or hundreds of thousands or even millions of refugees fleeing
their countries, sometimes because of war or persecution or hunger or brutal economic
conditions. The numbers are so big that we become numb to all the individual stories that are
hidden within those numbers.

Recently, a rabbi in another country reached out to me about a family that had just arrived in
Winnipeg after fleeing desperate conditions in their own country. I “met” them on a Zoom call,
and I found out that they left careers and a whole way of life behind them, choosing instead the
unknown. Only one family member of the four has some English. But they sacrificed everything
for their young family.

In their stories, I heard the stories of my mother and father and of their parents, and for that
matter it is the story of every Jew or Jewish family who left Europe for North America in the last
150 years. The details are different, but they all carry similar stories of trauma and the stresses
of relocation to a completely foreign country.

However, I also recall our family stories of how the Jewish community here stepped up to help
them out in obvious and quiet ways. Our Jewish community values everywhere have always
been that no matter where we come from, we are family. We invite new arrivals into our
homes for Shabbat dinner, we welcome them into our sanctuaries, and there is always room at
our tables on Passover to set out a few more plates and chairs.

That one Zoom call told me so much more about the huge human costs of displacement than I
could ever discern from a drone’s view of a refugee camp. In our bible, Abraham broke off a
conversation with God to run out and tend to the needs of three strangers passing by, inviting
them into his tent. So, that became my plan as well with this family and I’m now doing my part.

As we see and hear about people arriving into our communities from afar, let us all recall how
our own ancestors found support when they arrived here, from total strangers who became our
friends. As I think back to my own parents and the help they got, let us honour the memories of
what our ancestors received by stepping up ourselves to help those who continue to arrive.

Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Allan