Congregation Beth Sholom Refugee Project FAQ
What is the CBS Refugee Project?
Working with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), our community will welcome a refugee family and help them deal with the overwhelming experience of adjusting to life in America. We will help furnish and prepare an apartment for them, meet them at the airport when they arrive, contribute a small amount of emergency funding, and provide ongoing mentorship for several months. Mentorship involves acclimating the family to the basics of American life: how to navigate a grocery store; how to use public transportation; how to get a library card; how to enroll children in school; etc.
We will move forward with this significant initiative only if we determine that we have a critical mass of volunteers; more on this below.
What is the International Rescue Committee?
The IRC is an outstanding and renowned global organization, and a leader in addressing the current global refugee crisis. The IRC responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future. In 2016 alone, the IRC and its partner agencies resettled 13,400 refugee families in the United States. They have been doing this work for over 30 years, and they have worked with other synagogues in New Jersey on projects similar to what CBS is now undertaking. The staff at IRC’s New Jersey headquarters in Elizabeth will be guiding us every step of the way. You can learn more about the IRC at www.rescue.org.
Who are the refugees that we will be supporting?
The IRC resettles refugees from Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Congo, and El Salvador. While Syrian refugees have drawn the most media attention of late, refugee families from other countries are in equally dire straits and are desperately in need of support. We will find out the country of origin of our refugee family shortly before they arrive in the United States, after they have been vetted by the UN and numerous US governmental agencies and subsequently assigned to IRC for resettlement. Refugees who are forced to flee their homes and homelands due to conflict and persecution face particularly acute cultural, emotional, and financial challenges during the resettlement process. The resources of agencies like the IRC are limited, and communities like ours can make a world of difference in helping a refugee family successfully make a new home for themselves in America.
Where will the refugee family live?
As IRC’s New Jersey headquarters are in Elizabeth, they settle many refugee families in that area. Refugees are also settled in Paterson and other locations. If possible, however, we hope to help “our” refugee family settle in the Bergen County area, which will allow us to provide a much higher level of ongoing support, as we will not need to spend significant amounts of time driving back and forth to Elizabeth. We will be able to settle the family in Bergen County only if we are able to find housing that is inexpensive enough so that our refugee family will still qualify for important government benefits; research on this is underway.
What will be expected of our community?
We will be trained by the IRC as a HOME team. HOME stands for Housing, Outreach, Mentorship, and Education. Our ultimate goal is to help a refugee family adjust to their new home in New Jersey, supporting them as they seek to lead self-sufficient lives and integrate into their new community.
Specific tasks will include the following:
- We will work with the IRC to find affordable housing for the family in our area; if we are unable to find affordable housing in the area or if we do not have enough volunteers to take on this task, IRC will likely settle the family in Elizabeth.
- We will furnish the family’s new apartment, largely through in-kind donations of furniture and other essentials.
- A few members of our team will join IRC in welcoming the family at the airport, and we will provide a hot meal for them upon their arrival. In addition, we will stock their apartment with culturally appropriate groceries.
- We will, as a group, provide volunteers to spend time with the family at least once a week for two hours for their first year in the United States. This is called “mentorship.” The goal is to help them learn to navigate the community, as described above; to practice their English (supplementing their ESL classes); and to provide emotional support to the extent that we can (language barriers sometimes make this difficult). While IRC provides cultural orientation classes and community navigation services, most refugees benefit from additional one-on-one support with understanding American culture and acquiring appropriate life skills; HOME teams act as guides and allies in this endeavor.
We will provide a limited amount of financial support; see below.What cost is involved?
Each HOME team is obligated to contribute approximately $850. $500 goes to the IRC Emergency Fund, which helps the most vulnerable individuals and families with basic needs. $350 will cover required background checks for the three individuals on our team who will work most closely with the family; this policy is in place to assure the safety of refugee families.
There may be additional opportunities to provide financial support for the family without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits or becoming an obstacle to their eventual self-sufficiency; research on this question is in process.
When will we know more about “our” refugee family?
When we have ascertained that we have enough volunteers available for enough hours, and we have formulated a plan for covering the initial cost, we will commit ourselves to the HOME team program. At that point we will learn about the specific family that we will be supporting. IRC will match us with an appropriate family based on resources in our community (e.g. a mosque or church of a denomination comfortable for the family), housing we can identify, schools, and other factors.
What ongoing support will IRC provide?
- Initial Orientation: Upon enrollment in the program, HOME Teams participate in an orientation that covers the basics of refugee resettlement, cultural communication, and expectations of the program. Monthly introductory webinars are available to new HOME Team members.
- Continual One-on-One Support: Throughout the mentorship period, an IRC liaison is available to troubleshoot issues, offer guidance, and provide updates.
- Monthly HOME Team Meetings: Once a month, all current HOME Teams come together to share successes, address challenges, and learn about specific IRC programs. Meetings include an “ask-me-anything” session with IRC’s casework supervisor and/or resettlement director.
Congregation Beth Sholom | 354 Maitland Ave., | Teaneck, NJ 07666 | Tel 201-833-2620
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Congregation Beth Sholom
354 Maitland Ave.,
Teaneck, NJ 07666
© Congregation Beth Sholom
Website by Agile Digital Solutions, LLC