The Union for Reform Judaism (the URJ) and The Kraus Family Foundation have launched 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 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:
- Organize Union for Reform Judaism congregations and youth programs to help them provide assistance for young immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and their families.
- Activate and train Reform Jews to impact public policy on the federal, state, provincial, and local levels via a coordinated network.
- Educate the public and communicate about current issues related to immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.
- Provide micro grants to congregations and youth programs to act and advocate for young immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and their families.
- Further expand the work of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (the RAC), which has long led the Movement’s immigrant and refugee justice efforts.
“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.”
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.
The legacy of Gilbert and Eleanor’s 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.