• Rabbi celebrates start of Hanukkah, supports Syrian refugees

    By: Maria Guerrero

    Updated:

    SEATTLE - Jewish residents in Seattle are celebrating the start of Hanukkah Sunday night by helping those in need.

    A local rabbi is also speaking out in favor of welcoming Syrian refugees to the U.S. and our state.

    Inside the Jewish Family Service in Seattle, volunteers like Valarie Flores spent the day putting together more than 100 baskets of food and clothing for people in need, including homebound seniors.

    "They help a bunch of low-income families," said Flores.

    With each day, Hanukkah brings more and more light to darkness. 

     Rabbi Will Berkovitz said it's fitting given the world right now.

    "This is a real crisis moment for us as a society. I think we have to figure out, “Who are we?” Berkovitz said. “And who are we willing to help?”

    Berkovitz supports the U.S. allowing 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country next year, including some in Washington.

    "Welcoming in a stranger is a profound part of what it is to be Jewish," said Berkovitz. "We ourselves come from the experience of being refugees. We know what it's like."

    Every year, the Seattle nonprofit helps resettle about 300 refugees from places like Somalia and Iraq.

    They help get the people a home and a job.

    "Currently we are not asked to resettle Syrian refugees,” he said.

    But the rabbi would help.

    He called it a moral obligation and stresses the 18-24-month screening process.

    Asked about concerns terrorists could hide within the innocent masses, the rabbi remembers what Jewish refugees once faced.

    "We can't bring them in because they might be German spies. And that was an argument that was used," he said. "In the same way you're going to close the door to a person because there's the possibility and a very miniscule possibility that somebody might be a terrorist you'd also be closing your doors to the next Einstein."

    Hanukkah ends the evening of Monday, Dec. 14.

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