The Exodus That is Happening Today in Central PA

By Steven Schauder

When Jewish families gather next week to celebrate the holiday of Passover, they will start the meal with the following declaration:
“Ha Lacham Anya – This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. All those who are hungry, let them enter and eat. All who are in need, let them come celebrate the Passover. Now we are here. Next year in the land of Israel. This year we are slaves. Next year we will be free.”
Whether you say or sing this statement, most people move on with the Seder fairly quickly, rarely taking the time to analyze what we are saying. We are inviting anyone who is hungry and tried and afflicted to sit at our table and enjoy this Festival of Freedom. 
“This year we are slaves. Next year we will be free.”
JFS was recently notified by HIAS and the Office of Refugees & Resettlement that our application to become a Reception & Placement agency has been approved. This is not just a feather in the cap of JFS, but one for our whole community. At the time of this writing, JFS has resettled 209 refugees and have provided mental health services to another 173 refugees. When JFS was founded in the mid-1960s, one of our first major initiatives was to help resettle Jews from the former Soviet Union and we have returned to our roots after a lengthy hiatus to be full service resettlement agency. 
We do want to make you aware of an Exodus that is taking place in our community—the Exodus from Haiti to Central PA. Of the 209 refugees that JFS has resettled, 54 have been Haitian refugees, and they have all been resettled over the past month. We’ve become aware that an estimated 11,000-15,000 Haitian refugees have resettled in Harrisburg and York over the past few months. JFS has stepped in to provide housing, employment, and financial and food assistance. We have recently hired Vivianne Richard as our Haitian and Cuban Case Manager to work specifically with this population.
Join us as partners in welcoming these strangers into our community. We need help finding housing and jobs, teaching English, and helping our newcomers acclimate to life in Pennsylvania. So many have lived through slave like conditions—deprivation, hunger and sexual violence. 
JFS would like to invite you to put your words into action. The Haitian refugees arriving in Harrisburg and York are, in essence, our modern-day Israelites. They carry the weight of their past experiences, yearning for a future free from hardship.
The act of resettling refugees aligns perfectly with the core Jewish value of Gemilut Chassadim, acts of loving-kindness. The Torah instructs us to “love the stranger for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19). This passage compels us to not only acknowledge the plight of the refugee but to actively work towards alleviating their suffering. By welcoming these families into our communities, we are fulfilling a sacred obligation passed down through generations.
I invite you to reach out to me at [email protected] to learn more about ways that you can help with our resettlement efforts. Together, we can create a Promised Land for our refugees and a stronger, warmer more welcoming community for all of us. 

Skip to content