SHJ Urges Humanitarian Assistance for Syrian Refugees



As Humanistic Jews, many of whose families fled to the US and Canada from the Holocaust and pogroms, our hearts break as we see the escalating crisis of refugees fleeing their war-torn homes in the Middle East for an opportunity to live in peace and security. We are sickened by the images of men, women and children suffering and dying as they make the difficult and dangerous journey from their ravaged homes in Syria, Iraq, Libya and other Middle Eastern countries to Europe and elsewhere. We are concerned by their treatment in many European countries and their limited opportunities for asylum.


We note that Syria has produced the biggest refugee crisis in 25 years with four million people forced to flee through July 2015, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.[1] More than half of them are children, most of whom do not attend school.[2] 


As Humanistic Jews, we have a moral obligation to ensure that Jewish national and international organizations have adequate resources and commitment to assist refugees fleeing armed conflict, repression or religious and ethnic persecution.  Jewish organizations are describing the crisis in Europe as the worst since World War II, and emphasizing that Jews have a special obligation to provide moral leadership.[3]  As Rabbi Jeffrey Falick notes in his The Atheist Rabbi  blog, dated September 10, 2015:


In July 1938 delegates from 32 nations met at the French resort if Évian-les-Bains to discuss the mounting problem of Jewish refugees from Germany and recently-annexed Austria. At the time Hitler was willing to let them leave “even on luxury ships,” in his own words.


As everyone knows, little was done to help the German and Austrian Jews. The nations who participated in the conference were mostly unwilling to change their immigration quotas and very few of the Jews who needed a visa received one.


The Mideast refugee crisis is becoming increasingly acute. The Jewish community has an obligation to be part of the solution here. Though there is controversy surrounding the number of refugees that can be accepted to the U.S., there should be no controversy whatsoever about the dire need for financial assistance.[4]


As Humanistic Jews, we are deeply moved by the plight of these refugees. We urge the Jewish community to demand that political leaders and civil society act expeditiously to prevent further deterioration of this tragic situation and to prioritize a compassionate resettlement response.  We further recognize that the sheer enormity of this crisis and the considerable impact on the host countries struggling to meet the needs of these refugees requires a major financial commitment from the Jewish community throughout the US and Canada. Refugees need food, housing, education, medical treatment and trauma counseling.


Therefore, be it resolved that:


The Society for Humanistic Judaism urges Jews and Jewish organizations to view this refugee tragedy as a humanitarian crisis.  SHJ urges the collection of funds for relief efforts as well as a permanent political and peaceful solution to the conditions that led to the crisis.


SHJ encourages American and Canadian Jews to contribute to one of these organizations, or any other that is sending aid and advocating a peaceful political solution to the refugee crisis:


— September 24, 2015