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Temple Israel Hosts International Refugee Forum

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The question of whether the United States should welcome refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries has sparked much passionate debate. There will be a community forum in Tallahassee this Sunday night will attempt to turn down the temperature of that discussion.

Jack Romberg, rabbi at Tallahassee’s Temple Israel, said the idea for the forum has been gestating for a while.

“A few months ago I had put out a piece on my personal blog that talked about refugees and talked about some of the rhetoric going on and then some of the people from the community, in particular a fellow by the name of Bart Bibler, came to me and said, ‘Could we put together a community conversation about these issues?’” he said.

Romberg said the next step was to recruit a panel. “I reached out to the mayor’s office, reached out to Congresswoman Graham’s office – reached out directly to Gwen – both were very willing and ready to participate.”

But event organizers wanted as diverse a panel as possible.

“We realized that if this was going to be a true discussion, it cannot be a Democratic or a liberal discussion, it has to be a community discussion. So I was very pleased that we were able to get Jeff Howell of the Republican Party to become part of the conversation and give a more conservative perspective. And finally I invited local Imam Amro Abdalla to come and at least be part of the discussion and some of the discussion in terms of talking about Islam and talking about the feelings of some of the Muslim community locally.”

Despite the volatile nature of the refugee discussion in some quarters, Romberg is confident the panelists and audience will be guided by their better angels.

“And in the end what I want is for everybody to listen and to learn. And then also, because we’ll have a time for people to ask their own questions, to bring their voice and express themselves, too, but express themselves in a way that is appropriate; remembering that they will be standing in a sanctuary of a house of worship, and that the person handling the mike will be Brant Copeland, a well-respected pastor of this community.”

Romberg says it all happens at Temple Israel this Sunday evening, “We’ll begin at 6:30 and we’ll make sure that people can be home to see Downton Abby.”

The latest episode of which airs at 9:00 Sunday night on WFSU-TV.