Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom

Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom

September 17, 2015 10:02 ET

Temple to Sponsor Syrian Family

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(Marketwired - Sept. 17, 2015) - During Rosh Hashanah (New Year) celebrations Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom announced that the congregation will be sponsoring the immigration of at least one Syrian family to Montreal.

"In our tradition the High Holidays are the period of the year when we take stock, reflecting on our own behaviour and our contribution toward improving the world in which we live," noted Rabbi Lisa Gruschcow. "As Hillel asked, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?"

"Like all Canadians," she continued, "the photo of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year old boy who drowned off the Turkish coast, brought the Syrian tragedy into sharper focus for our congregation," explained Rabbi Lisa Grushcow. "We already had been looking at sponsoring a family, but the photo strengthened our commitment to lending a helping hand, just as we did with Vietnamese boat people in 1979."

In making the announcement Rabbi Grushcow cited the memory of the late Frank Nash, the former owner of "The Little Vienna" restaurant in downtown Montreal, who spent six months on a Greek steamboat trying to get out of Europe in World War II. It was a boat full of Jews looking for somewhere that would let them in, eventually landing near what was then Palestine. When there was an exodus of Vietnamese people escaping on boats and looking for safe haven, it was Frank Nash who organized Temple to sponsor two Vietnamese families in 1979.

"Frank Nash's compassion lives on in the hearts of the Cohen and McKenna/Baron families, both of whom reached out to me along with other Temple members encouraging our congregation to sponsor a Syrian family" added Rabbi Grushcow. "David Cohen, whose family came to Canada at the turn of the century, fleeing pogroms in Poland, has been the driving force behind this initiative."

The Barons spent a few weeks in Turkey and Greece on holiday this summer where they saw the refugee crisis first-hand. In a poignant letter to Rabbi Grushcow, Kerry McKenna wrote:

"One afternoon I was in the port with my two oldest daughters (age 6 & 7) and I bought them each an ice cream sandwich. They weren't paying much attention to a Syrian family, who like ours had three young kids, huddled together in shade of a nearby building. We had seen hundreds of families just like them in the three weeks we were in Turkey and Greece. In that moment we all had the same reaction- the unbearable awkwardness that accompanies being face to face with the inequity that exists in the world, the uncomfortable feeling of acknowledging your own privilege. When my girls opened their ice cream packets they realized that each packet contained four little ice cream sandwiches. For a moment they were thrilled at their good fortune. But then one of the Syrian girls, she must have been about 3, caught my oldest daughter's eye and she said to her sister why don't we just share one of the packages? In the same breath she handed her package over to the little girl who was watching. I was proud of course, but I'm not sharing this story to illustrate how great my kids are - they're just kids. I'm sharing this story because it illustrates so simply something that we all know from the time we are very little, and something that is so obvious when a real live human is standing in front of you; when you have more than enough of something and someone else has none you share."

The congregation will be moving forward with its sponsorship in the coming weeks. A working group under the direction of David Cohen and David Berger has been set up to manage the project, and fundraising is underway.

"This will not be a small project," explained Rabbi Grushcow. "We will be responsible not only for raising a minimum of $30,000 to show the Canadian government that we can support a family for a year; we will also be responsible for everything from meeting them at the airport to finding them a place to live, from helping them learn French to helping them find work and schools. We will be responsible long after their images and stories have disappeared from the headlines of our news. But we will stand together with other synagogues and churches across this country who are living their values and stepping forward to do what they can."

Donations can be made on-line at https://www.templemontreal.ca/community/social-action/syria-crisis/ or by contacting Melany at 514-937-3575 # 201

Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom is Montreal's only Reform synagogue. With more than nine hundreds member families, Temple is a caring, supportive and inclusive congregation built on Jewish tradition, education, celebration and community. Temple offers worship, learning and social opportunities for all ages, including programming for interfaith families, youth group, young adults in their 20-30 years old and social action initiatives.

Contact Information

  • Rabbi Lisa J. Grushcow, D. Phil.
    Senior Rabbi, Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom
    514-937-7058 (FAX)