This weekend at Shomrei, we would have marked National Refugee Shabbat, a project of HIAS. Because of the health emergency, we obviously will not mark this event.
However, there are still thousands of refugees both in our country and world wide though their lives have been eclipsed by the growing pandemic.
Marjorie Ingall, a writer and children’s literature commentator, has a regular column in the online magazine Tablet. Her latest is on books about the refugee experience.
I offer the following excerpt from her article as a substitute of sort, remembering also that we as Jews are a people with millennia long history of being refugees.
Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience , edited by Patrice Vecchione and Alyssa Raymond, opens with a quote from Simone Weil: “To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” Most children’s poetry collections are mediocre at best; this is emphatically not. It spotlights great poets who write for adults as well as accomplished poets who write for kids. Some are Jews, reflecting on their arrivals from Russia in recent years or on a parent’s experience in the more distant past.
“Refugees,” by British poet Brian Bilston
They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or me
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not OK to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way.
Now read the poem from the bottom to the top.