Announcing Our Inaugural Refugee Relief Mission


February 5, 2017

Announcing Our Inaugural Refugee Relief Mission

We are launching a refugee relief mission to Greece and Germany in May to mobilize the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue community around the global refugee crisis and foster long-term support for displaced Syrians.

In his sermon on February 3, Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch called the global refugee crisis “the most catastrophic moral failing of our times.” As Jews, he says, we are mandated to help. “Judaism is a religion of potency and protest, demanding of us: what have you done today to promote human dignity; to alleviate humiliation; to ensure fairness; to diminish, if only a little bit, the human tendency towards arrogance?”

Led by Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, Rabbi Diana Fersko, and Michael Patterson, synagogue president, our 10-day mission will take place in May 2017 in partnership with two non-governmental organizations, IsraAID and NOSTOS. We will offer support to those in need and learn directly from trained experts in the region. We will travel first to Greece, where sites will include a refugee shelter in Athens for unaccompanied minors ages 7-17 and  Yazidi settlements in northern Greece.

We will then travel to Berlin and meet with high-level policymakers to learn firsthand about the resettlement of refugees. Finally, our group will visit Holocaust sites in Berlin including the Jewish Museum to connect the Jewish story with the plight of today’s refugees.

Ultimately, we will foster a long-term connection between the Stephen Wise community and specific refugee relief efforts.

“When you look into the eyes of an orphan child at a shelter, you realize that this is not a political issue; it’s a humanitarian crisis that demands our ongoing attention and action,” Rabbi Hirsch said in our community gathering on February 5. Added Rabbi Diana Fersko: “Dozens of times, the Torah calls on us to remember the stranger. We must make every effort to help ‘the widow, the orphan, and the stranger,’ for we too were strangers in the land of Egypt.”