Milan Jewish Center Runs Soup Kitchen for Muslim Refugees Fleeing to Northern Europe
A kosher soup kitchen in Milan is supplying food and shelter for Muslim refugees attempting to traverse the continent to Northern Europe, the website of major Jewish outreach group Chabad reported on Thursday.
Eritrean, Ethiopian, Sudanese and Syrian refugees—most of them Muslim – usually stay one or two nights at the Chabad-affiliated Beteavon soup kitchen before boarding northbound trains, as they seek safety, and better prospects than in their home countries.
The soup kitchen, which also serves as a Holocaust memorial and museum, provides refugees with a hot kosher meal upon arrival. They also provide towels and toiletries, and direct the visitors to a shower area. The meal is often the first food the refugees have tasted since the previous night as many observe Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting during daylight hours.
Roberto Jarach, vice president of the memorial and former president of the local Jewish community, organized for an area to be set aside for the refugees and added beds and a shower to the space, which already had its own toilets and sinks.
More than 1,000 refugees sleep in areas across Milan every night and mainly in public shelters, he told Chabad.
“As soon as we learned that there were refugees passing through Milan needing a place to stay, we began considering how we could house some of them,” said Jarach, whose father also served as community president before him. “At that time, we had large school groups passing through the museum every day, and it was not feasible. Once school let out and attendance has gotten smaller for the summer, we immediately drew up plans to accommodate nearly 40 refugees every night.”
Jarach added that some of the refugees they help later thank them for their hospitality.
“We’ve now gotten communication from Germany, from people who’ve stayed here, thanking us,” he said. “They appreciated the clean towels and fresh food, the things we do to make their stay as pleasant as possible.”
Rabbi Yigal Hazan, who oversees the kosher kitchen, said that since Jews were also refugees at one point, running from enemies trying to kill them, now they have a duty to help others who “find themselves strangers in a strange land.”
He said the Jewish community’s involvement with the refugees is based on the Torah commandment to “love the stranger, for you, too, were a stranger in the land of Egypt.”
Local volunteer Riki Karmeli has visited the Holocaust memorial twice to deliver food she helped cook with other volunteers. She said she has yet to see any of the refugees, because they usually arrive late at night.
“But perhaps it is best that way,” she explained. “Everyone deserves dignity and privacy.”