Because I am a Jew

The very first Syrian refugees came to Canada on Thursday night, the fifth night of Channukah. They got off the plane to their first Channukah miracle in years, it was 8 degrees, in Canada, in December.

Worried that there would be far too large of a fanfare, the 160 refugees entered Toronto’s Pearson Airport through a discreet terminal, the mystical terminal 2. For the small number of privately sponsored refugees, who came through mainstream terminals, there were small crowds anxiously anticipating their arrival, I was sure to be one of them.

Along with my dear friend, Chaim Ifrah, I stood at Terminal 1 with my sign that said in Arabic, “مرحبا بكم في كندا” Welcome  to Canada.

Adorned in our Kippot, members of the media immediately were drawn to what to them was an irreconcilable paradox. After a number of reporters inquiring, I just had to laugh.

“I’m not here even though I’m a Jew. I’m here because I’m a Jew.”

As genocide threatens a fellow semetic population, how can I a Jew, be silent? How could a Jew rally against helping our bretherin in Syria escape refuge when we were once told that “none is too many”?

I had to welcome refugees as a refugee who once was expelled from my homeland by the Romans. I had to welcome refugees as someone who was expelled from numerous countries and persecuted in the rest.

As those spread fear in hopes that they don’t have to do more, I remember when the debates surrounding Roosevelt were a worry of Nazi infiltration amongst the Jews.

As Jews, as Semites and as a persecuted people, we need to do everything we can to stand in solidarity with the Syrian people facing genocide in Syria.

About the Author
Shai Reef is a Political Science student at York University.