Welcoming the Stranger
The Beth El Temple Center Refugee Response Team provides support to refugee families who are newly arrived in Boston. Since we began to work jointly with the Refugee Immigrant and Assistance Center (RIAC) in early 2016, we have volunteered with families from the Congo, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. In our work with these families, we have helped them become familiar with the Boston area, donated household items and furniture, helped them practice their English, assisted them in finding jobs and housing, and established on-going friendships.
We have done many other things as well. We have: helped welcome refugee families as they arrived at Logan airport; collected and delivered household supplies, furniture and clothing for refugee families; helped BETC members sign up for advocacy updates from HIAS and RAC; developed an insert for the Passover seder related to the plight of refugees; made and delivered welcome baskets for new families; collected hundreds of shoes to be sent to a refugee camp in Greece; hosted a post-Thanksgiving dinner bringing together refugee families and Beth El Temple Center members; co-sponsored a film series on themes related to refugees along with the Belmont World Film Series and the First Church in Belmont, Unitarian Universalist; hosted baby showers for two refugee families who had new babies; and much more.
Beth El Temple Center was proud to receive an Irving J. Fain Award in 2017 for our refugee response work. The Fain Awards honor URJ congregations doing exemplary social justice work to l'taken et ha'olam.
The Refugee Response team’s goals are to:
• Serve the needs of refugees, asylum seekers, or other recent immigrants making a new home in the US.
• Partner with one or more established refugee support organizations. Our current partner is RIAC – the Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center based in Jamaica Plain. We are also participating in the Belmont Religious Council’s Resettle Together program with the International Institute of New England.
• Determine ways we can help as a BETC community – not just as individuals.
• Offer both direct contact/involvement (such as shared meals) and indirect contact/involvement (such as donating supplies) with families in need.
We are open to helping people of all religions, ethnicities, and origin.
Please join us! We usually meet on the fourth Wednesday evening of the month at 7:30 for planning meetings. If you have not previously attended, be sure to check with one of us to make sure that there have not been any changes in schedule for the month.
How you can help:
- Direct Action:
- We are working with the Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center (RIAC) to provide support to families who have recently settled in Boston.
- Volunteer your time or skills, donate furniture — [in progress: we are developing a more detailed list of opportunities]
- Educate: Raise this issue with friends and neighbors; discuss it over coffee or dinner.
- Advocacy: Sign up for action alerts at www.RAC.org on many Social Justice topics and www.HIAS.org to sign up for refugee-specific alerts. Call your representatives on matters that affect refugees.
- Give: Consider donating one day of your earnings or whatever you can afford to support refugees in transition and advocacy efforts. You can contribute via BETC online (be sure to select Social Action) or send a check to BETC (memo: Social Action refugee response).
- The HIAS Resources page has excellent information on the global refugee crisis and how congregations can respond. They also have Passover materials .
- At the RAC's Passover holiday guide page you can find Hagaddah inserts on the refugee crisis.
We are partnering with these groups:
- The Refugee & Immigrant Assistance Center (RIAC), a community-based, grassroots organization dedicated to promoting educational and socio-economic development in Massachusetts refugee and immigrant communities.
- HIAS (The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) works throughout the US and in many other countries on refugee protection and resettlement. It is the only Jewish organization designated by the federal government to undertake refugee resettlement.