Over and over again in sacred writ from various traditions, adherents are urged to treat refugees with compassion.
". . .your Lord will be most forgiving and most merciful to those who leave their homes after persecution," says the Qur'an (16:110). And later (59:8), it says that "the poor emigrants who were driven from their homes and possessions, who seek God's favor and approval, those who help God and his Messenger -- these are the ones who are true -- (shall have a share.)"
The United States should, of course, be especially sensitive to the plight of refugees, given that the first European settlers here came, in effect, as religious refugees from a state-sponsored system that they considered oppressive.
But time and again in our history as a nation of immigrants we have shut our doors to refugees -- sometimes out of fear, sometimes out of prejudice, sometimes out of legitimate security concerns.
The default position, however, should be one of welcoming immigrants, especially those who have been "driven from their homes and possessions," who are refugees.
All of this, of course, has entered our national discourse on steroids in recent weeks in response to President Trump's now-blocked executive order prohibiting entry into the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim nations. It's a debate well worth having.
But one of the questions people I know have asked again and again is what they can do to be of help to the refugees who already are here -- especially those who have fled from the brutal civil war in Syria.
As the JFS website reports, "JFS and JVS are recruiting volunteers to prepare and deliver monthly food boxes to families under the direction of the JFS food pantry, and drive refugee families to important appointments. The agencies plan to have both programs operating by mid-March."
Here is the story the Jewish Chronicle recently published about this effort.
"JVS," it reported, "is the largest refugee resettlement agency in the metropolitan area, resettling over 5,000 refugees in the Kansas City community since 2004. Last year alone, JVS resettled almost 600 refugees from 14 different countries."
There is a three-month period in which such refugees receive financial help from the federal government. But often they need more to find their sea legs in this new world.
There are lots of ways for volunteers to help, from bringing food to one of two drop-off locations (including one on 63rd Street near Oak) and providing transportation to families that JFS serves.
I hope many of you can lend a hand with this important ministry.
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THE WORLD'S OLDEST HATRED PERSISTS
Antisemitism, Pope Francis says, is "completely contrary to Christian principles." And has been since way, way back when the church began to call Jews "Christ killers" and taught that the only good Jew was a Jew who converted to Christianity -- though it took the church centuries to figure out that it was grievously wrong about all this. The sad thing is that any Christian leader has to keep saying today what the pope just said about antisemitism being against Christian teaching. Shouldn't everyone already know that and act as if it's true?