Vancouver Synagogues Step Up To Sponsor Syrian Refugees

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"But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself."

So says the Old Testament. And so go Vancouver's five synagogues, as they sponsor families fleeing the war in Syria.

temple shalom vancouver synagogue
The Temple Sholom synagogue in Vancouver is planning to sponsor Syrian refugees. (Photo: Facebook)

The congregation at Temple Sholom in the city's Marpole area plans to sponsor one family, and possibly two, through a federal resettlement program, it said in a web update titled, "Love the Stranger."

The initiative is being carried out in the spirit of "Tikkun Olam," a Jewish concept that refers to social justice.

But sponsoring Syrian refugees has nevertheless been a controversial proposition for some faithful.

rabbi dan moskovitzDan Moskovitz is the senior rabbi at Vancouver's Temple Shalom.

Rabbi Dan Moskovitz has received emails from people concerned about helping refugees, reported The Vancouver Sun, including comments that he should "think before acting," that "they hate us anyway," and "It's a Muslim problem, let those countries come to their aid."

But Moskovitz isn't backing down. He asked synagogue members to swap the word "Muslim" for "Jew" when thinking about refugees.

"Re-read them that way and they are indistinguishable from the same statements that were issued when it was our people, the Jewish people trying desperately to get out of Europe ahead of the Nazi menace," he said.

His appeal for donations to help in the effort raised $40,000 in a single day, the Sun reported.

syrian refugees
A Syrian refugee child sleeps in his father's arms while waiting to board a bus, after arriving on the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos via a dinghy from the Turkish coast. (Photo: Associated Press)

Elsewhere in Vancouver, the Or Shalom synagogue is working to sponsor three refugee families. The congregation has raised $20,000 so far this year and hopes to obtain $100,000 by the end of December.

"In the memory of those who helped our ancestors," reads a blog post on Or Shalom's website.

The Jewish communities are working with the Blended Visa Office-Referred Program which matches private sponsors with people fleeing war that the UN Refugee Agency has "identified for resettlement."

Through this initiative, the federal government provides six months worth of income, while private parties support refugees financially for the next six. Sponsors also agree to provide emotional and social support for a year, said a government website.

syrian refugees
A Syrian refugee woman, who fled the civil war in her country, stands in front of her tent in Van, Turkey on November 16, 2015. Photo via Getty Images.

Other Canadian synagogues are also joining the efforts to help Syrian refugees, The Canadian Jewish News reported.

Toronto's Congregration Darchei Noam has raised almost $30,000 since May to sponsor a Syrian family, said Suzanne Silk Klein, co-head of its refugee sponsorship program.

"I said this is a humanitarian need," she told the Jewish News. "Nobody turned me down for money because they were a Muslim family."

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