RIDGEFIELD, Conn. — For his sermon on Yom Kippur -- the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people — a Ridgefield rabbi will take on the refugee crisis in the world and the importance of helping refugees.
"As Americans and, especially, as Jews, we are obligated to welcome strangers," said Rabbi David L. Reiner of Congregation Shir Shalom in Ridgefield.
"On Yom Kippur, I will be encouraging congregants to get involved with refugee resettlement efforts in the communities where they live."
Reiner's father, a retired rabbi, will join his son at the synagogue's Yom Kippur service at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, and will recount his experiences visiting a refugee resettlement center in Germany this past summer.
In addition, he said that throughout the High Holy Day services, the congregation has been inviting members to share their personal Jewish journeys, Reiner said. Many members of Congregation Shir Shalom arrived in the United States as refugees.
A refugee resettlement initiative Reiner plans to focus on in his Yom Kippur sermon is the newly formed group in Ridgefield called the Refugee Resettlement Committee -- Ridgefield (RRCR), which is working to support a refugee family coming to Ridgefield by Nov. 1.
According to Ann O'Brien, co-chair of the RRCR with Mike Rettger, the RRCR is working with a resettlement agency in New Haven called Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services to assist with this effort.
For the past few months, the RRCR has spearheaded a fundraising campaign to help a refugee family settle in Ridgefield. The group has reached its initial goal of raising $15,000 to relocate a family of four and has now set a goal of over $25,000 to help a family of six to seven.
"Our fundraising campaign was through committee members and word of mouth," said O'Brien, a Ridgefield resident.
According to O'Brien, Monsignor Laurence Bronkiewicz, pastor of St. Mary's in Ridgefield, announced that the parish plans to rent the refugee family one of the homes it owns within walking distance of downtown Ridgefield. The first six months will be rent-free for the family.
The RRCR is continuing its efforts to find local volunteers who will help the family integrate into the community by assisting them with such tasks as helping them learn English, getting their children enrolled in school, accessing the healthcare system and networking and applying for jobs.
"Our goal is to have the family be self sufficient in roughly six months after arrival in Ridgefield," O'Brien said.
She said the RRCR's efforts to help in this cause is more critical than ever.
"The world is experiencing the worst refugee situation since World War II," she said. "There are as many as 65 million people who have been displaced and 20 million refugees in the world.
"This is not an issue that we can leave to just the inner cities," she said. "Ridgefield is an amazing town to raise a family. It has so much to offer in areas of open community, the walkability to town and the sense of community here that it makes sense for any family to restart their lives here."
For a prior Daily Voice article on the Ridgefield Resettlement Committee, click here .
To learn more about resettling a refugee family in Ridgefield and the efforts of RRCR, contact the committee at RRCRidgefield@gmail.com or via mail at St. Stephens Church at 351 Main St., Ridgefield, CT 06877.