Sign In Forgot Password

April Update

03/31/2022 12:51:39 PM

Mar31

Meryl Epstein/Annette Jacobs

March saw many changes for the Afghan Family and the Resettlement Project. The family has now been here three months and is settling into life in the US. The dad is looking hard for a part-time job.  With COVID numbers reducing, we hope to be introducing the family to other Afghans in the area, as well as young Cambridge families with children who belong to one of our sister congregations, Reservoir Church, this spring.
 
The family’s ability to settle quickly was, in large part, due to the many hours of constant support provided by the original greeters/family liaisons, Beth and Jeff Green, Alice Markowitz, and Rick Glassman.  They met the family at the airport the third week in December and provided constant companionship, advice, guidance, and help to the family in navigating these crucial early, confusing months of life in the United States.  While these four dedicated individuals will maintain a social relationship with the family, new family liaisons, Susan Nitkin, Pam Katz, JoAnn and Michael Feldstein took over in March research capabilities They and the family are getting along well, and with the support of the original greeters, the transition happened seamlessly. Myra Schwartz and Alex Sugarman-Brozan add new depth and breadth to the team by providing for complex issues that arise.  
 
When asked why they volunteered for this important and time-consuming task, JoAnn and Michael responded, “With all of the upheaval and devastation in the world, it’s important for us to be able to help one of the families whose lives have been upended”.
Last month, some of you were able to attend the zoom session moderated by Susannah Sirkin of Hillel B’nai Torah. She worked for 35 years with Physicians for Human Rights on many human rights issues, including projects to advocate for women’s rights under the Taliban and for justice in the aftermath of decades of massacres across Afghanistan. She introduced Dr. Barnett Rubin, an Afghan expert, who has been a human rights advocate, a leading academic, and a State Department, as well as a United Nations, advisor specializing in Afghanistan since the 1970’s. Dr Rubin gave a brief talk and then answered the many questions posed by the audience. If you missed this talk and would like to see it, it is available on the CDT website.
 
As you know, March 5 was Refugee Shabbat at Dorshei Tzedek. Meryl Epstein, a member of the Afghan Resettlement Leadership Team since the beginning of this effort in late August, gave the following report:


As we approach the six-month mark of CDT’s Afghan resettlement efforts, it’s a good time to reflect on our progress. In September we formed a leadership team to explore sponsoring an Afghan refugee family.  We started by discussing infrastructure, fundraising and ways to involve the community. We prepared budgets to understand the substantial financial undertaking.   CDT leadership was enthusiastic and our members responded immediately to the first official announcement of the project with an incredible outpouring of donations that told us this work would be possible.
 
To learn about practical issues, we participated in meetings with leaders of other faith groups working with Catholic Charities and Jewish Community Relations Council, the resettlement agencies. We started searching for an affordable apartment in a convenient and diverse neighborhood with a landlord open to refugees. For the colossal task of furnishing the apartment from scratch, the community donated new and used furniture, mattresses and bedding for a family of four and a myriad of household supplies, while carefully considering cultural appropriateness and physical and emotional comfort.  The Newton home goods pantry, Welcome Home, provided many kitchen items. A team of volunteers moved the furniture and household goods into the apartment over many trips, adding toys, books, rugs, floor pillows, lamps and assembling, cleaning and rearranging until the space felt like a home.
 
In addition to setting up the apartment, we worked through complex volunteer logistics.  Enthusiastic volunteers from CDT and Temple Hillel B'nai Torah, with whom we’ve been collaborating, stepped forward.  We held an educational forum about cultural practices. A team of 4 people agreed to take on the sacred role of initially welcoming the family and being their primary connection to the Boston area over the first few weeks. 
 
On December 21 the four greeters met the family, 2 parents in their 20's and two children under 4, at Logan airport, traveling in a minivan on loan from another CDT family, equipped with donated car seats and winter coats.  When the family arrived at their Cambridge apartment, they found colorful Welcome cards made by CDT religious school students, a kitchen filled with Afghan appropriate foods and spices, and a delicious 3 course, home-cooked meal that included the national Afghan chicken rice dish. 
 
The accomplishments over the past 12 weeks speak for themselves. The family is extraordinary, calm, resilient, warm and eager to take all steps necessary to succeed in this country.  The 4 greeters extended their initial "first few weeks" and have visited the family almost daily-- introducing them to many aspects of US life--supermarkets, playgrounds, bakeries, facilitating visits to the Cambridge Mosque, opening a bank account, making doctors’ appointments. Shopping volunteers visit on a schedule, delivering Afghan bread, Halal meat and taking the family to the grocery. The parents are learning English, in both school and through private ELL sessions, the oldest child is enrolled in Head Start and the family has registered for Mass Health, WIC, SNAP and other benefits. Ongoing needs for winter boots, backpacks, laptops, strollers and the like are quickly and creatively procured through donations.  Jewish Vocational Services will be helping the father with employment opportunities and volunteers are on call to do mock interviews. And this week a new team of family liaisons have started to take over for the initial greeters.
 
I've been humbled and inspired by the bravery and resilience of the family and by the generosity, resourcefulness and love shown by the community of approximately 150 volunteers and donors who have helped so far.  This work and the need are ongoing; please watch for an announcement inviting others who are interested to join us. It truly takes a village. 

 

If there is anyone who hasn’t volunteered and would be interested in helping the family with last minute transportation, technical support in researching and using computer software and cell phones, please get in touch with Pam Katz, who is a family liaison, at pamstevekatz@gmail.com

Tue, June 28 2022 29 Sivan 5782