JCRC UPDATE | December 25, 2015

The Middle East is, quite frankly, a mess, and there are no signs of it getting better any time soon. Libya is now on the verge of being overrun by ISIS. ISIS terrorists are destroying passenger jets in Egypt. Yemen is the battleground of a proxy war between Iran and Gulf Arab states with thousands of civilians killed already. In Iraq, ISIS has taken over large swaths of the country, including its largest city, Mosul. As a result, tens of thousands have been killed, wounded or sold into slavery. The atrocities continue there.

Syria is, by far, the worst situation in the Middle East. Militant groups like ISIS and the Al Nusra Front (an Al Qaeda affiliated organization) are terrorizing the population, fighting the Syrian regime, more moderate militant groups and each other, leaving scorched earth in their wake.

On the other side, the Syrian regime, backed by Hezbollah, Iran and now Russia, has systematically murdered its own population, barrel bombing civilian areas for a couple of years now. Most estimates put the number of civilians killed by the Syrian Assad regime at close to 300,000.

Because of all this death and destruction, millions of refugees and internally displaced populations have been created, innocent civilians who simply want to stay alive. For months, many of these people were going to refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, but now these refugee camps are at capacity, leading to hordes of people trying to escape into Europe.

We can play a small part in helping to alleviate this human tragedy. Our community has agreed to co-sponsor a Syrian refugee family with the Louisville Islamic Center … helping a newly arrived refugee family acclimate to life in the United States.

This is an amazing opportunity to show that our Jewish community is a compassionate one, and that our unique history of discrimination guides us to help these “strangers in a strange land.”

While we are in the process of gathering further input from our community on the greater refugee issue, we can start with this small but meaningful gesture for this one family who has already been cleared to come to our country.

Our Jewish community has a long history of helping newly arrived immigrants to our country, a history going back over 100 years with national organizations like the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and our own Jewish Family and Career Services (which helped settle over 1,000 Soviet Jews after the collapse of the Soviet Union). We are proud to participate in this very Jewish tradition.

We do not yet know when this family will be coming here, but there will be a need for donations and volunteer time to help this Syrian refugee family with their acclimation to our community.

To co-sponsor this family with the Louisville Islamic Center is an honor and another opportunity for our two communities to further cement our already good relationship. We will make further announcements as to the identity of this family as we have more information. On behalf of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Louisville, I wish you a happy and healthy New Year.

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