Synagogue Hosts Welcoming Jewish Christmas Syrian-Refugee Dinner

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Rabbi Elliott Tepperman and organizers Melina Macall and Kate McCaffrey welcome 50 members of 10 Syrian refugee families at Jewish Christmas Dinner of Chinese. (Photo: Sarah O'Leary)
Rabbi Elliott Tepperman and organizers Melina Macall and Kate McCaffrey welcome 50 members of 10 Syrian refugee families at Jewish Christmas Dinner of Chinese.
(Photo: Sarah O’Leary)

Bnai Keshet welcomed 10 newly arrived Syrian Muslim refugee families with a Jewish Christmas Day Chinese dinner. More than 130 adults and children, including translators, congregants and Montclair residents, attended and got to know one another.

Conceived of to counter the anti-Muslim rhetoric of absentee NJ Governor Chris Christie, the event went beyond breaking bread. Guests eagerly asked about potential job contacts, ways to learn English as a second language and how best to advocate in the public schools.

Syrian refugee children play with Bnai Keshet's Sam Tepperman.
Syrian refugee children play with Bnai Keshet’s Sam Tepperman. (Photo: Sarah O’Leary)

Bnai Keshet Rabbi Elliott Tepperman spoke, with the help of an interpreter, of the borders his grandfather had to cross at the age of 14 to be reunited with his family. “The room was packed and at every table American Jews and Syrian Refugees were smiling and trying to communicate,” Tepperman said. “Everyone had name tags in English, Hebrew and Arabic and with very few words beyond each other’s names, extraordinary warmth and gratitude was expressed.”

Many Bnai Keshet members have family histories of fleeing warfare and violence, seeking asylum in lands that were not always welcoming. The Syrian families Bnai Keshet’s welcoming were recently resettled in Elizabeth, NJ by the International Refugee Committee. More recently, an additional Syrian family was resettled in Paterson by Church World Service, amid controversy sparked by Gov. Chris Christie’s efforts to block them from entering the state.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Seriously? Seriously? It’s all about Gov. Christie? Is there no lower point the good citizens of Montclair and their handlers in such small niche silly corners of NJ than Baristanet.com can stoop to than to blame it all on “absentee Gov. Chris Christie”? I do applaud you however on holding on to biases (and for our liberal friends, hatred…spelled HATRED) forever and ever. Isn’t that what’s gotten the middle east in its current pickle?

  2. brigattista, that line made me cringe as well, but let’s not pretend that Christie isn’t spewing anti-Muslim rhetoric, and isn’t absentee. He is most certainly both. More importantly, calling out bigotry is not hatred, and it baffles me how you could make that claim while looking at pictures of Muslims and Jews breaking bread.

  3. This is the kind of news story (from Baristanet.com) that makes me even more proud than I already am – if that’s possible – to live in a community like Montclair, New Jersey: home to such souls as Rabbi Elliot Tepperman and all the fine folks at the aptly-named Congregation B’nai Keshet: “Children of the Rainbow”.

  4. @brigattista:

    I applaud you for your calling out those you oppose for “holding onto biases”!!

    Surely we can all learn from the Right in this country and move forward, assuming we forget about Confederate flags, abortion rights, healthcare, global warming and, oh, just about every issue there is.

  5. Kudos to Rabbi Tepperman et al. I saw him speak a few years ago at a movie showing at the JCC in West Orange, and was very favorably impressed. I’m even more impressed with him and Temple Bnai Keshet having read this item. I only wish I’d heard about the event before it had taken place. I only heard because someone happened to mention it to me today in passing at a party.

    As for brigattista’s comment: it’s not “all about Governor Christie.” That’s your fixation, not the preoccupation of the refugees, of Rabbi Tepperman, or really anyone except Governor Christie’s dwindling band of supporters. Funny how sensitive such people can be on behalf of a governor who prides himself on his tone-deaf, bellowing insensitivity to everyone but himself. It was, after all, Christie who wanted to ban these people from our state, a ban he had no authority whatsoever to impose, but that he claimed the right to impose. But now, two sentences critical of poor Christie, and his supporters throw a fit–but as for defending his ban, or even his right to impose one…not a coherent sentence.

    Why anyone should be criticized for defying an idiotic policy Christie blustered about putting in place, but failed to put in place, remains a mystery. Seriously? We’re supposed to be timid about defending Tepperman and the refugees but you’re NOT embarrassed to defend Chris Christie? Newsflash: We aren’t the ones who ought to be on the defensive. You are.

    If you think Baristanet is a small niche silly corner, feel free to set up brigattista.com and make the big time. The truth is that the first thing that the average New Jerseyan thinks of on seeing your handle is… um, BRIDGEGATE. A real stroke of PR genius. Unfortunately, it’s not a move calculated to pay dividends for the Christie campaign.

    Frankly, I’m glad he’s an absentee governor. Any time he spends away from the state on a losing bid for the presidency is time well spent.

    Keep it up, Bnai Keshet.

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