DISPATCHES FROM THE FIELD
Whether your congregation is working directly with newly resettled refugees, planning education events, or organizing meetings with elected officials, it is likely that a relatively small group of committed volunteers are at the heart of the work and therefore, most deeply connected to the efforts underway. Here are examples of how Welcome Campaign synagogues are striving to create ways for more members to feel connected to a their refugee-related efforts:
At Bnai Keshet Reconstructionist Synagogue, Montclair, NJ the refugee committee has set up a ‘Syrian Supper Club,’ which regularly brings together the refugee families they are supporting with members of the congregation. For each supper club gathering, a meal is prepared by their new Syrian neighbors who share their traditional cooking skills. Each guest donates a minimum of $50 to cover meal costs and support the families. This model allows the newly resettled refugees to share their unique knowledge and skills, and to participate in an income-generating effort that helps give them greater independence and confidence. It also provides an opportunity for new neighbors to come together over good food, to socialize and to get to know one another.
Congregation Shaare Emeth, a congregation in St. Louis, MO, has partnered with a local resettlement agency to work with families resettling to the St. Louis area. Volunteers - often families - visit their new neighbors during their first four weeks after their arrival, helping make sure they have everything they need, orienting them to their neighborhood, and helping communicate their needs to caseworkers. Their men’s club is planning to begin preparing apartments for newly arriving individuals; adults and teens babysit the children of their new neighbors while parents attend ESL classes; and congregants have donated needed supplies. Others work with refugees on mock job interviews, and the children in Shaare Emeth’s religious school assemble supply packages.
Please share your ideas, questions, and requests by emailing Isabel.