Helping the refugee community

At the Feb. 6 Arizona Jews for Justice community discussion that discussed the legal processes involved in helping the refugee community are, from left, Keith Sobraske, Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, Larry Sandigo, Miesje Corbo, Nyota Mpenda and Kevin Groman, facilitator. The recording is available at valleybeitmidrash.org.

As President Trump’s executive order restricting immigration and suspending the refugee resettlement program awaits the next round of judicial review, the group Arizona Jews for Justice hasn’t scaled back its efforts to assist refugees coming to Arizona. “The threats are still very real and the fear among refugees is still very palpable,” said Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, founder of Arizona Jews for Justice.

Before the president’s executive order took effect on Jan. 27, 4,110 refugees from countries such as Afghanistan, Burundi, Iran, Sudan and Syria were reported resettled in our state in fiscal 2016, according to the Pew Research Center.

Arizona Jews for Justice helps refugees in the following ways, Yanklowitz said: raising funds; donating household items; advocating for refugee rights; “inviting them into our homes”; lining up dentists to provide free services; helping them learn English; and educating the community. The group, in partnership with Valley Beit Midrash, hosted a Feb. 6 community discussion at Temple Chai that included information on the legal processes involved in helping the refugee community, testimonies from refugees and action items for participants.

The Arizona chapter of National Council of Jewish Women is also working to help refugees settling in Arizona. “It’s a part of our core values to support women, children and families,” said Sondra Mesnik, the publicity chair of the Arizona chapter of the NCJW. “As Jews, we were once strangers and we feel it is our responsibility to care for the stranger.” She pointed out that 80 percent of refugees around the world are women and children.

The chapter is hosting a program on Tuesday, Feb. 21 called “Refugee 101: The Global Refugee Situation.” At the event, Mesnik said, Nicky Walker of the Phoenix office of the International Rescue Committee will discuss the global refugee situation, the application and vetting process all refugees undergo prior to approval for resettlement, and how refugees eventually end up in Arizona. She will explain specifically what resettlement agencies do and how the community can become engaged to make refugees welcome and ensure their successful integration into the community.

The NCJW program will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Pueblo Norte Retirement Community, 7190 E. Mescal St. in Scottsdale. The program is free and the public is welcome to attend. For more information, contact president@ncjwaz.org.

The Arizona chapter also will host a luncheon March 19 at which four women who are refugees from Ethiopia, the Congo, Afghanistan and Iraq will speak about their experiences.

Yanklowitz said the most pressing needs in the refugee community include basic home needs, education and social integration, protection from potential discrimination and abuse and dental and medical support. “We need really reliable volunteers who will step up and consistently offer what they can,” Yanklowitz said. “For many (volunteers), their interest fades. We also really need funding to hire staff that can help us make a greater impact.”

For more information about Arizona Jews for Justice, contact Valley Beit Midrash at 602-445-3112 or visit valleybeitmidrash.org.

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