By Kim Kupfer
JFS will be resettling between 25-50 refugees in our community in the coming weeks and we wanted to share information on the project and ways YOU can HELP to welcome our new neighbors. The first wave of refugees will be arriving in Harrisburg between December 24, 2021, and February 15, 2022. Here are a few FAQs and answers.
Why is JFS helping to resettle Afghan refugees?
As a proactive, compassionate agency driven by the Jewish value of “Welcoming the Stranger,” JFS of Greater Harrisburg recognized the need to act immediately to resettle Afghan immigrants who were forced to flee for their lives due to their affiliation with the US government and US army while in Afghanistan.
So many members of the Jewish community are either immigrants themselves or the children, grandchildren, and descendants of immigrants. We understand what it means to be forced to leave one’s home, sometimes suddenly, and settle in a foreign land; we deeply understand the human tragedy that occurs when nations and citizens turn a blind eye to those who are fleeing persecution, war, and terror.
We are also doing this because JFS has a long history in refugee resettlement dating back to the mid-1970s. In the 1980s, JFS resettled more than 100 Russian families in Central Pennsylvania and in 2017, JFS assisted in the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the community. Drawing on our roots and on our mission to help individuals and families meet life’s most difficult challenges, JFS has partnered with HIAS (formerly the Hebrew Immigrant AID Society) to resettle between 25-50 Afghan refugees in our community in the months ahead.
How are these Afghan refugees vetted before they arrive in the community?
Every Afghan refugee referred to JFS has undergone a fourteen-point rigorous security screening by the Department of Homeland Security as part of the resettlement process. The process includes extensive and multiple background and biometric checks on everyone entering the United States. Visit https://abcnews.go.com/International/amid-afghanistan-chaos-refugee-vetting-process-sound-opinion/story?id=79689151 to learn more.
Who are these refugees entering the United States from Afghanistan?
The Afghan refugees entering the United States were allies of the US government and US Army over the last twenty years. They represent individuals who:
- Worked in the US Embassy in Kabul
- Served as translators for the US Army
- Worked in Aid & Humanitarian organizations
- Were at risk if they remained in Afghanistan because of their faith and beliefs
- Were pro-democracy advocates, including many women and girls whose lives are at risk under Taliban rule
These are brave allies of the United States who deserve our appreciation and support in making new lives in Greater Harrisburg and the United States.
What is the COVID status of arrivals?
As of July 30, Afghans flying to the US had to have a negative COVID test before coming to the country, and some have been offered vaccines before flying. In Harrisburg, we are ensuring that COVID tests are administered quickly after their arrival and that the family and staff take necessary precautions to protect everyone’s health and safety. Families will also be given information about masking, social distancing guidelines, and vaccines.
What can I do to help?
There are many ways you can help.
Donations: We need help with donations in multiple ways:
- Monetary Donations- A great way to support our refugee families is by donating to JFS. Your donation will go towards meeting refugees’ basic needs—food, clothing, housing, translation services, transportation, education, and more—as well as supporting our JFS team while they coordinate all these critical efforts. To give, you can visit jfsofhbg.org.
- Donations of Furniture, Household Goods & Clothing- JFS is partnering with M28 Ministries to accept donations of gently used furniture and household items for our new neighbors. The only furniture we need right now includes:
- King-Sized beds
- Queen-sized beds
- Bunk beds
- Cribs/ portable cribs
The only household goods we need right now are pots and pans.
If you have these items to donate, please contact M28 Ministries by going to https://m28.us/
Clothing: We are looking for new or gently used and freshly washed clothing for our new arrivals. We will be sharing information on clothing donation sites in the days ahead.
Volunteer needs and opportunities could include, but are not limited to:
- Apartment Set-Up: help clean and furnish housing secured for incoming families. (Supplies and furnishings are donated based on a list of items published when JFS is notified of an incoming family).
- Transportation: help clients get to and from appointments, errands, and meetings; teach them how to navigate public transportation systems.
- Mentorship & Companionship: adjusting to a new community and culture is difficult! Pair up with a refugee client to support them through this transition. This could also include help with job searching and preparation, cultural orientation, and other mentorship assistance.
- Translation: if you know or know of someone fluent in Dari or Pashto, please refer them to JFS to assist with translation for our new families
To volunteer with our Afghan Refugees, please go to www.jfsofhbg.org
We hope you will consider helping these brave new neighbors coming to our community! If you have questions, feel free to call JFS at 717-233-1681 or visit our website at www.jfsofhbg.org