The Talmud teaches that every generation should see itself as the generation that left slavery in ancient Egypt – as if they themselves had journeyed through the wilderness for 40 years before reaching their final destination. This is intended to teach compassion for immigrants and refugees, as well as a passion for justice for all who are forced to flee persecution, and find their home in a new land.
The Bible commands kindness to the stranger, in memory of our bondage in ancient Egypt. The Louisville Jewish community has proudly fulfilled this mitzvah (commandment) since its very founding. Every year, we join with Jewish Family and Career Services (JFCS) in celebrating the achievements of new or first-generation immigrants or refugees with its MOSAIC Awards. As a community, we have every reason to be proud of the work that we have done together, working collaboratively toward a common goal: to create a welcoming and supportive haven to those who are newly arrived to this country.
As a non-American myself, this message speaks to me very personally and powerfully, and I am personally grateful for the welcoming embrace that I have experienced from our Louisville Jewish community. This is one of the countless reasons why I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to now serve as mission leader for KentuckyOne Health, working with the downtown campus of Jewish Hospital, University of Louisville Hospital and James Graham Brown Cancer Center.
Well over a hundred years ago, the founders of Jewish Hospital were inspired by the waves of new immigrants arriving to their community, along with the thousands of people whose health care needs were greater than they could afford to pay. And today, Jewish Hospital’s mission to provide wellness, healing and hope to all, including the underserved, continues to guide the work that we do every day. Not only are we a center of excellence of which we can be very proud, providing some of the most cutting-edge and advanced research and medical care, but we are also committed to actualizing the legacy of our founders’ vision to provide care to everyone and to building bridges to care where there are none.
Just a few weeks ago, this same calling led us to organize a massive health fair at Shawnee Newcomer Academy, which serves as the first point of entry for refugee and immigrant children entering into our public school system. We provided education including CPR training for teachers, students and family members. We provided free hearing, vision, dental, blood pressure, stroke, glucose, DermaScan and cholesterol screenings, as well as student immunizations, free flu shots and mammograms, thanks to the James Graham Brown Cancer Center’s Mobile Mammography Unit.
In order to encourage participation in these life-saving screenings and important educational opportunities, while also promoting exercise and healthy behaviors, departments across the hospitals raised money to purchase bicycles and helmets, and participants who attended more than 10 screenings or informational booths were entered into a lottery to win them. For many students and family members, these bicycles and helmets were life changing, providing them with access to transportation, as well as exercise. This fair was just the beginning of a relationship that we are forming with this school, and just one example of the countless ways that we seek to honor our founding legacy and continue the sacred work of tikkun olam (healing the world).
May the time come when we will recognize in the face of “the stranger” our brother and sister. May we feel proud of the ways that all of our Jewish community organizations are working together to care for all those in need – especially the most vulnerable amongst us. May our work be blessed, and may, together, we be a blessing.