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New York City, April 30, 2019 – The Union for Reform Judaism (the URJ) and The Kraus Family Foundation today announced the formation of the Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus Initiative for Immigrant and Refugee Justice. Eighty years ago, in 1939, the Krauses followed their consciences to Austria and Germany to rescue the largest group of unaccompanied minors brought to the United States in the lead up to World War II. Their story serves as inspiration to generations of the Kraus family and, through this new initiative being launched on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah), will now also provide a framework to activate and galvanize greater action across the Reform Jewish Movement amidst the current immigration and refugee crisis.
The Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus Initiative for Immigrant and Refugee Justice, funded by a multi-year gift of more than one million dollars from The Kraus Family Foundation, will:
“Gilbert and Eleanor faced unimaginable resistance as they took action just before World War II broke out. Despite risks to their own way of life they were able to do the extraordinary: save 50 Jewish children,” said Jill and Peter Kraus. “In their names, we’re reemphasizing the importance of individuals’ efforts in changing society. Today’s immigration and refugee crisis can seem overwhelming. Yet each of us can learn from their example, stand up for what is right, and take action to improve our world.”
“The Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus Initiative for Immigrant and Refugee Justice utilizes the power of the URJ, representing the largest movement in Jewish life, to deepen the impact we can make supporting immigrants in achieving the safety and stability they deserve, as we work toward a world committed to justice, compassion, and peace,” said URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs. “The urgency of this crisis resonates throughout the Reform Movement. Guided by the Torah and our Jewish values, and inspired by the example set by the Kraus family, we are compelled to be outspoken advocates for immigrant and refugee justice.”
Leading the Kraus Initiative will be Dr. Julia Paley who joins the RAC as Director of Immigration Justice. Throughout her career, Paley has addressed social justice issues involving human rights and immigrant justice, including co-founding and organizing a Washington, DC area interfaith network to defend immigrants from deportation, and working as a trainer engaged in cross-cultural dialogue and collaboration with grassroots organizations fighting for justice in Latin America.
“During this intense period of detentions, deportations, family separation, and the undermining of asylum, the Kraus Initiative will have a strong impact on advocacy around public policy, legislation, and the rights of undocumented immigrants, and providing support to help congregations promote immigrant rights in their communities,” said Paley. “The Reform Movement’s commitment to immigrant rights is driven by Jewish ethical precepts and a deep conviction that we dedicate our lives to advancing justice.”
The legacy of Gilbert and Eleanor’s incredible rescue mission to help those fleeing persecution is carried forward by their grandson Peter Kraus and his wife Jill, who co-founded The Kraus Family Foundation.
For information about supporting the Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus Initiative for Immigrant and Refugee Justice, contact Ilene Ausubel at IAusubel@urj.org.
About The Kraus Family Foundation
The Kraus Family Foundation began its work across the New York region in 1999 with a focus on the arts including supporting public sculpture, exhibitions at various museums, and arts education.
About the Union for Reform Judaism
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) builds community at every level—from the way we collaborate with congregations, organizations, and individuals to how we make connections across North America to advance contemporary and inclusive Jewish life. Providing vision and voice to transform the way people connect to Judaism, we help congregations stay relevant and innovative, motivate more young Jews to embrace Jewish living, agitate for a more progressive society, and foster meaningful connections to Israel.
Founded in 1873, URJ has grown into the largest and most powerful force in North American Jewish life, with nearly 900 member congregations and work that inspires, connects, and educates millions of people. Our legacy, reach, leadership, and vision mean that we can unite thousands of years of tradition with a modern, evolving Judaism to strengthen Jewish communities today and for future generations.
Visit us at www.URJ.org to learn about our social justice initiatives, camps and programs for young Jews, services for congregations and communities, and how you can work with us to create a more just, whole, and compassionate world. Enjoy related content at ReformJudaism.org and connect with URJ on Twitter and Facebook.
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