“The refugee arrived.” Just in time for HIAS’ National Refugee Shabbat. To honor the refugees past and present we launched Lab/Shul’s Lab/Shul’s Refugee Task Force this past Shabbat.

Check this flyer out for details out and Read on to find out why we did and how you can join us to make a difference in the lives of thousands of refugee children and their families.

Moria Refugee Camp in Lesbos, Greece. Amichai Lau-Lavie, August 2018

The refugee arrived on Abraham’s doorstep. No name. Another statistic.
The three words from Genesis 14, the chapter describing the aftermath of a bloody battle implicating Abraham and his family. Chanted aloud from Torah scrolls in synagogues worldwide this past Sabbath as the weekly Torah portion Lech Lecha, this lesser focused on chapter sheds light on yet another historical humanitarian crisis – and what it takes to rise to the challenge of repair.

The refugee arrived on Abraham’s doorstep and our father Abraham, we are told in the terse text, who was no stranger to migration and seeking of refuge, hears of the battle and of how his kin have been captured and rushed to save them, with success. Refugee crisis averted.

The hundreds of thousands of Jews gathered this past Sabbath in synagogues may have not paid attention to these three words and short narrative tucked between far greater ones of the ascent of the Abrahamic story. But so many of us, first, second, third, hundredth generation of refugees, ought to learn from our ancestor and rise, like him, to reach out to the immigrants and refugees whose plight demands our selfless action.

So who’s the refugee today? Who’s yours?

International School for Peace and Moria Refugee Camp in Lesbos, Greece. Amichai Lau-Lavie, August 2018

My father was one such recent refugee, seeking sanctuary in 1945, along with his younger brother, the sole survivors of their Polish Jewish family. They were supported by generous strangers who enabled those two traumatized refugees to arrive in British Palestine, eventually becoming the builders of Israel.

My new friends Abed from Syria, and Muhammed, from Iraq, are two more of today’s refugees, two out of 70 million victims of global violence and famine seeking sanctuary and a home all over the world.

I met Abed and Muhammed this past summer, as I visited the International School of Peace on the Island of Lesbos in Greece. Founded by Arab and Jewish Israeli activists and educators in 2016, this exceptional project provides daily schooling and ongoing community support to hundreds of children and their families, refugees from the Middle East and Africa, who are stranded in Greece for the foreseeable future. The teaches at the school are also from the refugee population, offering the students from ages 6-16 what is often their first educational experience.
This school, run by donations and with volunteers, is a unique model for coexistence and cultural respect, offering a true life line and ray of hope for the hundreds of refugees who are fortunate to get in. With more resources, the school can serve many more and make a much greater impact.

To honor my father’s memory and to support my new friends, I launched Lab/Shul’s Refugee Task Force this past Sabbath, partnering with community leaders and members to support the School of Peace and ensure its survival and sustainability.

As winter approaches, critical needs such as clothing, insulation and nourishment call on us to raise the bar of our support and engagement.

Here’s how you can help:

Join me and be part of the Task Force: We will meet in New York and onilne this November and December to plan a few events featuring some of the school’s leaders and helping them raise awareness and funds. Email me at
[email protected] for more info and to sign up. Stay tuned for upcoming info from Lab/Shul.

We hope to plan a group trip to Lesbos this coming spring/summer – to learn more, volunteer and offer solidarity and support.

Donate to Support the school’s needs and its special winter campaign with a tax-free gift: SUPPORT ISOP

Together we can walk in the footsteps of our ancestors, rising up the humanitarian challenge so familiar to our families and to our souls. We are the refugees and it’s on us to open up our hearts, our wallets, and our homes to each other, with responsibility, and with love.

Thank you for your support.

Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie
October 21, 2018