Beth El invites community to special refugee Shabbat
“Love the stranger because you were once strangers.” So says Deuteronomy 10:19. There are many biblical verses that may be difficult to relate to today, not the least of which would be the prohibition against the mixing of fibers. But there is truth and relevance in this quote from Deuteronomy.
Religious teachings, and plain old humanity, suggest that there is a moral imperative to treat the stranger well. In fact, the Torah instructs Jews 36 times that strangers should be treated with compassion and dignity.
At the present time, one could easily substitute “refugee” for “stranger,” and then quickly realize that many people are not living up to the religious principals they espouse.
The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) has challenged the community to look at the worldwide refugee crisis every day, but particularly during the weekend of Oct. 19–20. The Torah reading for that week is titled Lech L’cha,or loosely translated “move,” in which Jews remember the years of wandering in the desert.
HIAS would like people to take that experience a step further and learn about the present-day refugee experience. HIAS has put together a coalition of more than 100 synagogues that have pledged to observe a refugee Shabbat.
On Friday, Oct. 19, Beth El–The Heights Synagogue invites the community to its refugee Shabbat. Patrick Kearns, executive director of Refugee Response, in Cleveland, will be the speaker. He has firsthand knowledge of the plight of refugees, both outside the United States and once they are settled here in Northeast Ohio.
You do not have to be a member of Beth El, or Jewish, or even knowledgeable about refugee issues to attend. Come and learn about today’s refugees, how they became refugees, and what you can do to help.
A traditional Friday evening service will be followed by a vegetarian-friendly dinner (fish will be served). Services begin at 6:30 p.m. There is a $10/person charge for dinner, with pre-registration and pre-payment required.
For more information, and to RSVP, go to www.bethelheights.org/kabbalat-shabbat. Beth El is located at 3246 Desota Ave., in Cleveland Heights.
Robin Koslen is a resident of Cleveland Heights and a public school advocate.