Remarks by Charlene Seidle, Executive Vice President of Leichtag Foundation at the March 9th “We Were Refugees Too: Educate-to-Action” event at Temple Emanu-el.
This weekend, we will celebrate Purim, the ultimate holiday of social justice. Purim is about turning the expected on its head. It’s about revealing the potential for goodness that often seems hidden. Purim celebrates a moment in history where a potential for great injustice was reversed because of acts of deep moral courage.
At a critical moment in the Purim story, when King Acheshvarosh is poised to carry out Haman’s plan to wipe out the Jews, Mordechai emboldens Esther when he says:
And who knows, perhaps it was for just such a time as this that you attained your royal position!
In these past weeks and months, many of us have been thinking the same. Could the silver lining of these times of darkness and injustice be the empowerment of each us to act, to inspire others to act, to take bold and righteous steps that literally can change history?
Here are five ways you can take action.
First, support the work of organizations that serve immigrants and refugees, organizations like Jewish Family Service, HIAS and the Syrian Community Network.
Second, support the work of organizations that advocate for and give voice to immigrants and refugees, organizations like the Anti Defamation League, International Refugee Assistance Program and ACLU.
We have a handout that will be available at the back with information on some of these organizations that have been vetted and are doing excellent work. With federal funds being cut, some employees at refugee-serving organizations are at risk of losing their jobs and many are refugees themselves.
Third, reach out to your representatives at every level: local, state and federal. Calls are better than emails. We know from staff at field offices that they keep track of and pay close attention to contacts from their constituents. In addition to expressing your support for refugees, ask that they are vocal in support of refugees.
For contacting elected officials, consider downloading “5Calls” – available on iPhones, Android, and through its website 5calls.org, which provides daily actions and scripts to call your congresspeople/senators and you can call through the app, so you don’t need to save any phone numbers.
Fourth, support refugees directly through volunteering in language assistance, mentoring and “adopt a family” programs. And very importantly consider hiring a refugee! Refugees make outstanding employees. They are tenacious, committed and strive for success.
Fifth, use your social media platforms to educate your own network of family and friends about refugees and ask them to reach out to their representatives as well.
Let’s follow in Esther’s footsteps, garner our courage and take action. Hillel asked, and if not now, when? The time of action is upon us!
Thank you for coming this evening.