Israeli Film Festival February 2023January 31, 2023
Rabbi David Wilfond’s Message – Friday, February 10, 2023February 9, 2023
|Welcome the Stranger
You might have seen Hazrat Ahmada and not even known it. He lives in Mount Kisco. You may have seen him shopping at the grocery store. Or perhaps you saw him while you were filling your car with gas and he was filling up too. Hazrat looks like everybody else, but his story is unique. Hazrat used to be a professor of economics at Tabish University in Kabul, Afghanistan. Two years ago, he had to flee his home in Kabul. He left Afghanistan with the U.S. Army as part of its evacuation of civilians at the time of the Taliban takeover of the country. Hazrat was in danger because he worked with civil activists and a younger generation of Afghans to fight against extremist ideology. In America he now works for Aon Company. He will be our guest speaker for Refugee Shabbat tonight at the Temple.
Refugee Shabbat occurs during the Torah portion Beshallach, which tells the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt and crossing the sea to freedom. The story of taking only what you can carry and running from persecution is one with echoes throughout Jewish history, and in the stories of refugees and displaced people today.
“Welcoming the Stranger,” is one of the most important Jewish mitzvot. Thirty-six times the Torah tells us to “Welcome the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” No other mitzvah is repeated as many times. In fact, among the 613 Mitzvot, this is the only one that appears both in the list of the 248 positive “Thou shalt” mitzvahs (“You shall love the stranger…”), and in the list of the 365 negative “Thou shall not” mitzvahs (“You shall not oppress the stranger…”.) Many Jews would say this is the most important mitzvah because it is the most repeated principle in the Torah.
There are many ways you can welcome the stranger.
1. Become active in “RESET.” We are a founding congregation of “RESET,” a local agency that helps refugees in our area. Several of the leaders of “RESET,” are your friends from our congregation.
2. Shop at Refugee and Immigrant-Owned Businesses.
3. Learn a Language with Refugees – Sign up to learn Arabic, Armenian, French, Kurdish, Persian,
or Spanish by employing a refugee as a teacher through NaTakallam. You can even purchase
“Gift of Conversation” packages for family and friends eager to learn. Professional translation
services are also available for individuals and organizations worldwide.
4. Donate Goods – Donate old technology (PCs, printers, tablets or PDAs, mice, sound and video
cards, etc.) through PCs for Refugees. Donate new or gently used baby carriers to refugees
through Carry the Future.
Come tonight to the Temple to meet Hazmat, hear his story, learn about RESET, and discover how we can fulfill the Jewish value of “Welcoming the Stranger.”
Rabbi David Wilfond