By Steven Schauder, Executive Director, Jewish Family Service
I want to share a story with you---three weeks ago, we received an email to our general email mailbox from a community member asking for our help.
He had spent more than thirty years working for the US government, with numerous postings in Middle Eastern countries, including Afghanistan. For the past few years, he was underwriting a school in Afghanistan and was providing financial support to the top performing students to attend college.
He was reaching out because there were two siblings who were top students at the school and both had to escape Afghanistan because of their involvement in pro-democracy activities at home. The 18-year-old brother and his 16-year-old sister were at Fort Dix by themselves without their parents. This community member was desperate to get these young people off the army base and had already arranged for a college scholarship for the young man. He agreed to house these siblings and provide them with a nurturing home—he just needed an agency to process the paperwork to get these young people off of the army base.
Our hearts sank when we saw this email—the idea of two teens being alone on an army base was deeply troublesome and we quickly mobilized to become the sponsoring organization for these young adults. About two weeks later, we joyfully met these young people at Harrisburg International Airport, to welcome them to their new community and to help provide them with a better life. Two days after that, we sat with this new family in a beautiful living room, welcoming them to our community and to the United States.
This is just one of the incredible stories we are experiencing every day and we look forward to sharing more stories with you in the weeks ahead.
THANK YOU for helping JFS thrive during this very uncertain time as we continue to help all of our community members—both our new arrivals and those with us since our formation.
A quick summary of our chief needs for Afghan Refugee Resettlement:
- Housing- we desperately need affordable housing for our new arrivals. If you are aware of sympathetic landlords who will rent to refugees, please contact JFS at email@example.com. We are looking for affordable 2, 3, and 5 bedroom homes.
- Volunteers - We still need volunteers to help work with our families. If you are interested in volunteering, please fill out a volunteer information form. Please go to the JFS website at www.jfsofhbg.org to sign up.
- Donations – we need food to help support our Afghan refugees. Primary needs are rice (ideally long grain, white jasmine rice), lentils, jam, sugar, loose green tea, salt, olive oil or corn oil, and apple juice containers. Food can be dropped off at the Libby Urie Food Pantry at JFS during business hours each day.
- We need RUG donations - Rugs are an important aspect of Afghan culture as it is customary to not wear shoes indoors and we are asking for donations of rugs for these new arrivals. Rugs can be donated through our partner, M28 Ministries by contacting them at (717) 610-4645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Financial donations – There are so many unexpected costs associated with resettling. Imagine needing new glasses and shoes and food and clothing without having a job or speaking the language. While JFS and our volunteers are helping our families begin to settle, we are still asking for your monetary support to help us. All funds received will go towards resettlement efforts. Go to www.jfsofhbg.org to donate.
Though Afghan refugee resettlement is the priority of JFS at the moment, we are still providing vital services across each department. We continue to connect children to their forever families through our Adoption, Foster Care, and Post-Permanency program, we are fielding calls each day from community members struggling to make ends meet and who need emergency financial or food assistance, and we are providing the highest quality mental health counseling to children, teens, families, and seniors. We are still delivering Kosher Meals on Wheels to homebound seniors and take great pride in knowing that we have not missed one day of service for meal delivery during the COVID crisis. (FYI—this year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Finkelstein-Cohen Kosher Meals on Wheels program and we’ll be celebrating on June 9th. More details in a future article). We are planning a new bereavement group, taking place on Wednesdays, from February 23 - March 30 at 11:00 am – 12:00 pm. More details can be found at www.jfsofhbg.org.
We are currently serving 1,500 clients each year and the number of clients served grows on a daily basis.