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Afghan Refugee Response

(updated 2/6/23)

Deborah Rosen's Remarks, delivered during HIAS Refugee Shabbat on behalf of the Refugee Steering Committee
 
With a heart full of gratitude, I stand before you today awed at the generosity we have seen from this community to support the Afghan Allies we have taken under our wings.
 
As you may recall, over a year and a half ago we were shocked by the images we saw coming out of Afghanistan where our military bravely risked their lives to evacuate as many American citizens and Afghans as possible. Since then, we formed the Refugee Assistance Steering Committee to provide support to our new Afghan neighbors. You responded with generous donations of funds and more. You donated furniture and household items for two families, provided gift cards for food, clothing and so much more.
 
Last year for HIAS Refugee Shabbat, we heard from the two families who had been in Alexandria for less than a year. At the time they were learning to navigate everyday life in an unfamiliar culture and search for employment to become self-sufficient. Today we wanted to share with you an update on “our” Afghan Ally families and what’s next.
 
First, “our” two families have expanded from two to five. Second, your generous contributions have gone towards emergency rental assistance; essential food, clothing, bedding, tuition assistance for classes, classroom books, cooking supplies, computers and other essential items. Volunteer assistance has come in the form of proving transportation, advice, job search assistance, and help filling out forms.
 
  1. Zubair and his wife Farahnaz are doing well. They have held a variety of jobs and are making ends meet with driving and delivery services. Fara completed a nail tech program and has written several children’s books that may be published.
  2. Karimi, worked in a full-time position for a federal contractor, but the contract just ended and, once again, he is looking for a job. Karimi’s nephew, who lives with him, is a Lyft driver.
  3. The women in the families are working on their English through multiple ESL programs simultaneously, including tutoring with our own Mindi Maline and classes through Northern Virginia Community College.
  4. Afifa, a single Afghan woman, has come into our orbit. We have supported her financially, and with rides, and friendship through the Training Futures Workforce Development job training program, job search, grocery shopping trips and more. She is employed part-time at two retail establishments and continues to look for a full-time administrative position.
  5. The children are doing well in school, making friends, learning English, integrating into American society. Sadly, we do not have anything to share on the Karimi’s child who is still stuck in Afghanistan. The situation is heartbreaking and complex.
  6. In addition, Mark Kutner was helping a number of individuals with paperwork to assist them in upgrading their status in the U.S.
  7. All of the families have made progress on their legal immigration status.

What's Next?

HIAS is once again calling on Jews around the world to take action on behalf of the 100 million people around the world who are now displaced. Right now, there are still many people fleeing Ukraine who want to come to the U.S. but are in need of a sponsoring entity. And there are additional refugees coming from Haiti, Cuba, and Venezuela.
 
HIAS played a huge role in welcoming Afghans. In 2021 the organization launched “Welcome Circles” to build a network of volunteers across the country to help Afghan evacuees join their communities and restart their lives in the United States. In 2022 this model was adopted for Ukrainians. The State Department’s January 2023 launch of the Welcome Corps program has enabled HIAS Welcome Circles to welcome refugees from around the world as part of the United States Refugee Admissions Program.
 

HERE IS OUR CALL TO ACTION

Learn: See resources from HIAS on learning opportunities this weekend.
 
Give: See the Shabbat Announcements on how you can give to HIAS and other organizations to respond to immediate needs from Sanctuary DMV and other groups.
 
Volunteer: Are you interested in getting involved in welcoming Ukrainian or other refugees? The bottom line is this: We need more people from the community to get involved to take that next step, particularly to engage and support new waves of refugees and immigrants.
 
For more information about “our” Afghan friends please speak to members of the Agudas Achim Afghan Assistance Committee—Rachel Goldberg, Mindi Maline, Esta Miller, Deborah Selmonosky, Samara Weinstein, and me, Deborah Rosen. Our wonderful leader, Mark Kutner, had to step back for a bit but we hope he will be back in action soon. For more about the work of HIAS, visit www.HIAS.ORG.
 
Thank you all for participating in this community-wide effort of Hachnasat Orachim (welcoming the stranger).
Wed, May 22 2024 14 Iyyar 5784