On World Refugee Day, I Pledge 30 Days of Activism

Today is World Refugee Day. And, Facebook just reminded me that last year on June 20, I posted this: “Today is World Refugee Day. A day to call attention to more than 65 million displaced people around the world: men, women, and children forced to leave their homes; men, women, and children looking for safe havens where they can raise their families, go to school, work, and live.”

I was in the middle of writing another similar post, but cannot bring myself to do it this year. Not when the fight feels so urgent and so close to home. Not when US policy is cruelly and unjustly separating small children from their parents, placing them in detention centers, and denying them the basic human need of comfort. Not when this policy is being enforced in my name and with my tax dollars.

Words matter and language matters. So, we must recognize that the more than 68 million refugees around the world are going through a different process than those seeking asylum in the US. The international laws and protocols responding to refugees and asylum are distinct – though both important. I hope we have enough compassion for all the people around the world seeking a better life for themselves and their children; for the people of all ages forced from their homes in search of peace and opportunity.

This year, instead of calling attention to the displaced people around the world, I am committing to 30 days of activism. I am committing myself to daily acts – large and small – that respond to the crisis of immigration around the world. So, I will begin documenting the actions I take, including donating to organization working at the US/Mexico Border as well as those responding to the Refugee crisis around the world; calling my representatives to support the Keep Families Together Act; calling government agencies to voice my opposition to the zero tolerance policy that is leading to family separations; and joining marches to End Family Separation. I will also be writing throughout – trying to bring my past decade of study on philanthropic responses to the Holocaust to bear on this current moral crisis. 

After all these years of research, I can recognize that some of this action is meant to make me feel better – to assuage the helplessness I feel when I read about toddlers and babies ripped from their mothers arms and put into cages. But, my goal is to do work that is meaningful to the communities experiencing this trauma and to push the needle (even the slightest bit) forward with whatever resources I have to give. 

Join me in this #30daysofaction. Your actions can be big or small, but if we all commit to paying attention, bearing witness, and doing what we can, we will – at the very least – refrain from being silent in the face of despair and cruelty. Even as the details change, our voices remain essential.

So, today, in honor of World Refugee Day, I am donating to the International Rescue Committee as part of a pledge to stand #withrefugees.