Leanne Italie

Abdul Jalal Hashimi grew up in Kabul and fled with his family to the United States after working more than six years against the Taliban alongside American military forces.

A 32-year-old Muslim, he has known few Jews personally, but come Passover he’ll be among more than a dozen refugees sharing special holiday food and swapping life stories with congregants at Temple Beth-El in his new hometown of Richmond, Va.

The experience, he said, is aimed at breaking down stereotypes and eliminating bigotry.

“What I hope is to know each other,” said Jalal, who prefers that name, in a blog post the synagogue posted on its website ahead of the Seder.

The Conservative synagogue’s senior rabbi, Michael Knopf, said in an interview that it’s the first time his congregation has marked the global refugee crisis through special readings and rituals at a Seder. Knopf expects Afghanis, Iraqis and Syrians, including Jalal, to attend his synagogue’s Seder, along with more than 100 congregants.

Congregants and guests will be using a supplement to existing Haggadahs, the collection of recitations and stories that guide the evening, including the telling of the Israelites’ liberation from Egypt.

The supplement was written by HIAS, a Jewish resettlement organization first established in the 1880s that has helped millions of Jews fleeing pogroms, war and other tragedies. In recent years, the nonprofit has helped resettle refugees of all faiths and ethnicities.

Last year, Muslims comprised 51 percent of the 4,191 people from 47 countries assisted by HIAS and its network of more than 320 synagogues that have signed on to support refugees.

The HIAS Haggadah supplement last year was downloaded from the group’s website more than 3,000 times and distributed in hard copy at events and through other organizations, said Rabbi Rachel Grant Meyer, HIAS director of education and community engagement.

“Throughout our history violence and persecution have driven us to wander to seek freedom,” she said. “Passover really feels like the time on the calendar that just makes the most sense to put people’s attention on the global refugee crisis. There is clearly so much resonance with Jewish history.”

Rituals suggested by the supplement include refugee guests and Seder leaders rising from the table to place a pair of shoes on the doorstep while reciting a phrase that “acknowledge[s] that we have stood in the shoes of the refugees.”