After several months of waiting, the family we are helping to resettle from the Congo is finally here. We need not call them “our refugee family” anymore, (although admittedly it will take some time to unlearn) we can call them our new neighbors. As the relationship deepens and matures may we honestly be able to call them our friends. These people are not merely the beneficiaries of our generosity, they are sheliachay b’mitzvah, they who are providing us with the opportunity to make a difference. The gratitude in moments like this flows both ways. Yes, they are the recipients of our generosity, but so too we are the beneficiaries of their courage, perseverance, and willingness to accept help. We are enabling them to start a new life here but they are enabling us look back at this moment in history and say with honesty that we did something about a terrible humanitarian crisis.
In his heartbreaking lament, “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos”, the singer, songwriter, and activist, Woody Guthrie, expressed indignation over the fact that a newspaper he read listed the names of the pilots but not the “deportees” who died on a fatal flight to Mexico. Over the course of the ballad he shares the name of all the passengers by name. Rather than a conventional chorus, each stanza ends with the same line “all they will call you will be deportee.” It is poetic justice that the Book of Exodus, which we read at this season each year, is known in Hebrew as Shemot, meaning “Names”. The narrative begins by listing our ancestors driven by famine from Caanan to Egypt by name. In the opening scenes of the book we observe how the names our ancestors are called are emblematic of their ever endangered status. From this day forward the family we have sponsored should be referred to not by their status but by their names.
So It is with hearts full of joy and gratitude that we greet our new neighbors by their names. Mr. Jean Ishimwe, Mrs Donata Myitamatego, we welcome you and your son, Aime Ishimwe, to Lexington, Kentucky. We at Temple Adath Israel look forward to meeting you in the days ahead and are committed to making your acclimation to our community as smooth as possible. Bruchim Ha’Baim, Blessed be arrival. Hayvaynu Shalom Alechem, We wish you peace.