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Tuesday 18 May |
Saint of the Day: St. John I

Synagogue Hosts Traditional Jewish Christmas Dinner for Syrian Muslim Refugees: Chinese Food

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 12/26/15

This may be my favorite Christmas story this year, via

It was a traditional Jewish Christmas dinner — Chinese food. But the guests at the synagogue in Montclair were neither Jewish nor Christian. They were recently arrived Muslim Syrian refugees. Feeling concern over the “demonizing of immigrants,” members of Bnai Keshet, a Reconstructionist congregation, invited 10 refugee families in Elizabeth to join them Friday night—which also happens to be the start of the Jewish Sabbath. “They were very enthusiastic,” said Kate McCaffrey of Maplewood. “We really have no idea what their experiences with Jews are or what their feelings are. They accepted the invitation overwhelmingly.” The event came about because “members of our congregation and people throughout the Jewish community have really felt called to help the refugees,” said Rabbi Elliott Tepperman, the leader of Bnai Keshet. “As Jews, we all come from refugee families and we know in our bones what it’s like to have hateful rhetoric directed toward us,” Tepperman said. “Many of our parents were Holocaust refugees.” To make sure everyone’s dietary restrictions were met, the meal included vegetarian food catered by Woxx, a Kosher Asian restaurant in West Orange. Because it is Friday evening, the start of the Jewish Sabbath, the meal started with blessings over candles and challah bread. And despite the political hostilities between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East, that did not arise as an issue when the Syrians were invited, said the event’s organizers. In addition to the 10 families living in Elizabeth, a Syrian refugee family living in Paterson also accepted the congregation’s invitation.

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