Dear Congregation Beth Israel community,

The verse most often repeated in Torah is “love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Torah reminds us 36 times that it’s our responsibility to help the ger — the stranger, the immigrant, the refugee — because we know that experience from the inside.

I’m writing today to share an opportunity to join me in helping a (soon-to-be local) refugee family. A northern Berkshire host team of volunteers has come together to support a young family fleeing from Haiti, a married couple with two young children under the age of three. My family is a core part of the Haiti host team, which is operating with the support of Bridget Spann, Community Outreach Organizer at First Congregational Church in Williamstown. The situation in Haiti is increasingly dire, and we hope to be able to get this family here by summertime.

Right now we’re doing the behind-the-scenes work involved with bringing this family here. This Haitian family will probably live temporarily in Williamstown while long-term housing is sought for them elsewhere in the county, most likely in Pittsfield.

Once they are here, we will need volunteers to help with all kinds of things, including but not limited to transportation (giving them rides to places like the grocery store), health care (helping them get to medical appointments to and navigate the American healthcare system), housing (helping to connect them with long-term housing), tangible things (collecting items they will need in order to start a household here, from furniture to pots and pans to clothes), connecting them with community, and more.

This is a great way to live out our core Jewish values of caring for the refugee and welcoming the stranger. I hope that many members of the CBI community will want to lend a hand. And — I do not want anyone to feel obligated to help out just because your rabbi is involved. Please know that if this isn’t the right volunteer work for you, or if this isn’t the right time for you, I completely understand! And, if you’re in a position to volunteer or donate, I know that our support will make a big difference to this young couple and their kids.

If you are interested in helping out, please contact Bridget Spann, Community Outreach Organizer at First Congregational Church Williamstown, by email at [email protected]

If you are interested in supporting the resettlement of this Haitian family, tax-deductible donations to First Congregational Church’s Immigrant Family Support Fund are welcome — please write a check to First Congregational Church and in the memo designate Immigrant Family Support Fund. This fund, which is dedicated to direct assistance for a few immigrant and refugee families supported by the church, will be utilized by the Haiti host team to cover resettlement costs.

Thanks for reading this note, and for anything you can do to help us bring this family to safety.

Blessings to all,

— Rabbi Rachel