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Shofar Kavannah for Refugees

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This ritual invokes the blast of the shofar to articulate the plight of refugees. It was created for use at High Holidays in response to the presidential travel ban.

The blasts of the shofar are a wordless prayer punctuated by moments of silence. The stories of courage, hope, and determination of refugees resettling in our communities are punctuated by the silent yearnings of those who are kept out by the presidential travel ban.

Tekiah is the wail of a single mom of three fleeing from the Democratic Republic of Congo who is learning to navigate life in a small midwestern town.

[blow Tekiah]

Silence is the heartbreak of a Syrian-born resident of the U.S. who cannot visit her mom in Egypt.

[pause for silence]

Shevarim is the determined steps of the young Iraqi father who begins working two jobs far beneath his skill level so he can buy a car for his family.

[blow Shevarim]

Silence is journey that is halted because of the new order that only refugees with bona fide relationships will be allowed entry. 

[pause for silence]

T’ruah is the broken sounds of English of two young Syrian girls, born in Jordanian refugee camps and now in public school in the United States.

[blow T’ruah]

Silence is the empty arrivals screen on the resettlement caseworker’s computer.

[pause for silence]

Tekiah gedolah is the blast that holds on when there seems to be no energy left. It calls us to not allow xenophobia, Islamophobia, and nativism to be the new normal.

[blow Tekiah Gedolah]

Director of Chaplaincy and Outreach, Jewish Social Services of Madison, Wisconsin

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