Under the auspices of Congregation Beth Israel in Scotch Plains, several congregants and other community members have formed a Welcome Circle to sponsor a displaced Ukrainian family that was forced to leave its war-torn homeland.
The volunteers are working with the non-profit organization HIAS, one of the oldest refugee resettlement agencies in America, and the U.S. government’s “Uniting for Ukraine” program. That program allows qualifying Ukrainians to come to the United States for up to two years on humanitarian parole, which is different from refugee status. The Welcome Circle has accepted financial responsibility for the family for a minimum of six months, and will help its members acclimate to life in the United States.
HIAS, founded more than 100 years ago as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, draws on its Jewish values and history to provide vital services to refugees and asylum seekers from all faiths and communities around the world, and advocates for their fundamental rights so they can rebuild their lives.
“Our tradition speaks time and again about the importance of welcoming the stranger and refugee in our midst,” the synagogue’s Rabbi Howard Tilman said. And many of our own families have stories of immigration to this country where someone reached out a hand to help, or people wished they had. It is now our chance to repay that favor and help this Ukrainian family, because that is who we are.”
Members of the Welcome Circle have taken on responsibilities including school enrollment, benefits applications, apartment renting, finding translators, raising funds, and more. In addition, a donation site was set up to outfit the apartment with everything from groceries to furniture. Volunteers were asked to sign up for tasks like helping to deliver furniture and offering rides to medical appointments once the family moves in.
“We are so grateful for our congregation’s generosity,” Laurie Woog, chair of CBI’s Welcome Circle, said. “We could not have done this without so many people contributing in so many ways. We often feel helpless in the face of conflict and the overwhelming number of displaced people around the world. The Welcome Circle model offers a way for people in the U.S. to offer a small amount of tangible assistance to individuals and families fleeing danger or persecution.” She acknowledged the work of the group’s steering committee, and assistance from Weichert Realtors, Shovlin Mattress Factory, the Westfield United Fund, and others.
To donate, go to cbinj.org/Ukrainian-welcome-circle For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.