MONTREAL – Watching images of starving, homeless families fleeing Syria has left many Canadians horror-stricken.
Pictures especially of children begging for food and shelter have left the congregants of a Westmount synagogue wanting to help.
“When we see those young families and young children marching down these roads, we realize that could be us marching down that road with them,” said Denise Grossman, president of the Board of Trustees of the Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom.
The synagogue has decided to band together and raise money to sponsor the immigration of one Syrian family to Canada.
The idea came from one congregant earlier this month.
The government allows for private and faith-based sponsorship of refugee families.
The estimated cost is around $25,000.
In a few days alone, the Temple has raised $10,000.
Their goal is to raise $30,000 in less than one month.
“It’s tremendously heartening to see this response,” said Temple Rabbi Lisa Grushcow.
The temple has a history of giving, and Grushcow said the Jewish community is a generous one.
The temple sponsored the immigration of several Vietnamese refugee families in 1979.
The problem facing them now is ploughing through government red tape.
This month, Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil promised Quebec would allow in more Syrian refugees, with room for several thousand families this year.
So far, though, fewer than 700 have come to the province this year.
Some humanitarian critics have come down hard on Canada, saying the country is responding too slowly to the crisis.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said refugees coming from Syria are welcome, but insisted Syria is a terrorist hot spot and background checks need to be thorough.
Rabbi Grushcow said bureaucratic red tape should be eased.
“The majority of the people who are trying to find their way, who are risking their children’s lives to get to safety, I don’t think we need to be scared of them,” she said.
Grushcow said she hopes it won’t take longer than six months to bring one refugee family here.
Once here, the congregation will do their best to offer any help needed to integrate and settle the family into their new lives.
“When they come, we will be responsible for everything from meeting them at the airport, helping find schools for kids, helping them find work, learn the language and make a home here,” said Grushcow.
The congregation hopes the chance of giving one family a new life will come quickly.
To find out more, go to the temple’s website.