News & Views

HIAS PA Closes for Labor Day and Rosh Hashanah – 2021

HIAS Pennsylvania will be closed on Monday, September 6th, 2021, for Labor Day, and on Tuesday and Wednesday, September 7th and 8th, for Rosh Hashanah. Labor Day is a federal holiday and one, therefore, that our country will take together. But Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, of course, are Jewish holidays, not impacting our non-Jewish clients, colleagues, and supporters. While, as an agency with Jewish history and a Jewish informed mission, we have always closed for these holidays, this year, however these holiest of days feel like some kind of cosmic bad timing, or, at the least, inconvenient. We are in the midst of an humanitarian crisis that was created, in large part, by our country and that directly impacts our work. How can we possibly disengage in this moment?

The answer is, of course, that our closure does not mean our disengagement.

Our clients do not come to us by choice. They had to leave all that they held dear and all that they were connected to, that brought them joy, that fulfilled them, and come to a strange land with strange customs, speaking a strange language and eating strange foods. But we know, because we have done this work for 140 years and because we were once in their shoes, that they will laugh again, experience joy again, and thrive. And in that thriving they will bring us joy, make us laugh, lift us up by their courage and resilience, and, ultimately, become one of us. And we also know – because of who we are and what we do – that this is just the very beginning of a long and hard road.

Over the last few weeks we have been inundated with calls and emails and Facebook messages, and we have received almost as much support and requests to volunteer as we received calls for help. Our hearts have been so full – to see everyone come together for communities in crisis, to hear the sobs of parents, children, siblings, and lovers fearing for their loved ones far away. And our minds and bodies have moved continuously and as quickly as possible to prepare, to respond, to comfort, and to educate. We are privileged to be in a place where we can offer something in the way of support. And we are also human – exhausted, anxious about how much help we can offer, pained about those we can’t help or who we weren’t able to help, guilty that we have enough food and water and freedom while others have nothing. These feelings are not unique to this moment or to us, but there are moments, and this is one of them, when they overwhelm and interfere with our ability to do our work.

So these holidays, whether or not they are yours, are, in fact, occurring at the right time. They offer us, those who celebrate and those who merely work for an agency that celebrates these holidays, the opportunity to breathe. So we ask for your patience with us as we take these desperately needed breaths. So we can come back and serve all of you and our community once again with strong minds and hearts.