Jewish Community Refugee Initiative Update – November 2020

At its 3rd Annual Welcoming the Stranger to the (Virtual) Table event on Sunday October 25, the Jewish Community Refugee Initiative (JCRI) raised over $10,000 for the Immigrant Justice Program of the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, with the help of a dollar-for-dollar donor match by TBE members Gary and Stephanie Starr. The Advocacy Center’s Executive Director is TBE member Kenneth Schorr.

The Zoom program, with over 50 attendees, began with moderator Jackie Fishman sharing the story of her mother Susan Cernyak-Spatz, a survivor of Auschwitz, sailing into New York Harbor on the 4th of July 1946, weeping as she looked up at the Statue of Liberty upon whose pedestal are engraved the familiar words of Jewish poet Emma Lazarus:  “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” The program ended with TBE Rabbi Emerita Judy Schindler sharing a piece of artwork,  Alfred Jaar’s Ellis Island, 2024 — a deeply disturbing photograph of Ellis Island with the Statue of Liberty removed, and thus no engraving of Lazarus’s The New Colossus to convey the idea to the world that the United States is the land of immigrants.  The artist’s message: we must all continue to work hard to prevent that dystopian nightmare from coming true.

Between these two speakers were Isabel Burton, Senior Director, Community Engagement Initiatives, HIAS (formerly Hebrew Immigration Aid Society), Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency’s Executive Director Marsha Hirsch, and The Advocacy Center’s Executive Director Kenneth Schorr and Director of the Immigrant Justice Program Sharon Dove who explained how current U.S. immigration policy negatively impacts refugee resettlement, asylum seekers, DACA, TPS, some immigrants who are recipients of public benefits (e.g., Medicaid, Food Stamps, or Section 8 public housing), and Unaccompanied Minors.

An anonymous donor has made available, until the end of December, an additional dollar-for-dollar match up to $5,000, with all donations going to the Immigrant Justice Program at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy. Donations can be made online at by selecting JCRI in the drop-down menu or by mailing a check to Temple Beth El, with JCRI in the memo line.

To watch the 3rdAnnual Welcoming the Stranger to the (Virtual) Table Zoom program: Refugees and Asylum Seekers in The Time of Covid, visit