Our Jewish Core of Welcoming the Stranger: NCJW Atlanta Assists with Afghan Refugee Resettlement

By NCJW Staff

As refugees from Afghanistan begin to enter the U.S., NCJW advocates have moved into action to welcome those looking for a new home with open arms.

NCJW Atlanta quickly formed an Afghan Resettlement Committee to work in coalition with refugee resettlement organizations, in addition to organizing fundraising efforts and developing an advocacy strategy to put pressure on Georgia elected officials and the Biden administration to evacuate these individuals to safety. Working with partner organizations, including New American Pathways, NCJW advocates were given legislative talking points, directions to conduct a supply drive for newly arriving refugee families and instructions on how to set up apartments for them, among other helpful resources. 

Resettlement organizations often coordinate basic resources for new arrivals such as housing and employment placement, signing them up for English language classes and enrolling children in school, as needed. But building a home requires so much more. 

Although legal and public health processing takes several weeks, the section has moved into action to be ready once families are permitted into the state. In coalition with local Muslim partners at the Islamic Speakers Bureau, the section has organized a cultural background training for volunteers for early October so that the community can properly support the new families beyond material needs. Moreover, the section will be preparing welcome baskets as another way to make those new to the community feel at home. The baskets will include fresh produce, staple non-perishable household items, gift cards and anything else to welcome the Afghan families. 

As of right now, up to 500 Afghan refugees are expected to arrive in Georgia. Although this number is relatively low compared to other states, coordinating resources to support these families requires a lot of logistical preparation. Most families will be arriving with the clothing on their backs and not much more. 

“We are here to be informed and impactful and we are ready to roll up our sleeves to make refugees feel welcome,” section co-president Stacey Hader Epstein said. 

Immigration and refugee resettlement is not a new topic of interest for the section. Many members of NCJW Atlanta, including co-president Sherry Frank, helped with the resettlement of Soviet Jews in the 1970s. Many of those advocates are still involved and want to continue this important work. 

In Jewish tradition, we are compelled to welcome the immigrant, for once we were immigrants. NCJW advocates, within the Atlanta section and beyond, continue to fight back against xenophobic, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies to ensure that our country continues to be a welcoming place.

“It is our birthright,” Frank said. “NCJW started with helping resettle immigrants at Ellis Island and our work did not stop there. This work is at our Jewish core of welcoming the stranger.”

Due to previous Muslim bans, an increase in the power of ICE and a lack of updates to the immigration policies of this country, Frank stated that refugees are often in a harmful position. Nevertheless, NCJW advocates have a hunger to help and understand the immediate need to support this social justice work. 

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