Refugee Resettlement Update 12/8/17

As the rabbi at Jewish Social Services I play many different roles including visiting homebound and ill members of the Jewish community. Last week, just days after our last refugee family had arrived in Madison I was visiting with a Jewish senior who had just moved into assisted living. As we sat together he shared with me part of his life story. He is a Holocaust survivor and had fled Poland and come the United States as a refugee. He told me about how Jewish Social Services in Pittsburgh had helped his family find an apartment and how the synagogue and the Jewish community helped his family build a new life after losing so much to the hands of the Nazis.
After this visit I returned back to the JSS. As I walked to my office, I overheard our refugee caseworkers discussing how they were going to find appropriate apartments to rent for the next two families who will arrive on December 13. I smiled. It is a different decade, there are different wars being waged and the religions and nationalities of those arriving at the shores of the United States are different, but the work is same and the Jewish communal response is the same. We continue to help meet the basic needs of newly arriving refugees as they begin to rebuild their lives.
In the coming days Jews all over the world will prepare for the upcoming holiday of Hanukkah. It is on Hanukkah that we celebrate the Maccabean triumph of religious freedom and we spend eight days increasing the light in our menorahs. Over the last months and weeks so many in our country and in the leadership of our country have cast doubt, fear and darkness over the plight of the millions of refugees. These refugees are seeking safety because they do not yet have the freedom we celebrate on Hanukkah. May the candles of Hanukkah shine brightly for justice and may we each take action that will illuminate global refugee crisis and counter the dark forces that are preventing so many in need from entering our country.
Here is a suggestion of 8 actions you can take to support refugees on each night of Hanukkah
Shabbat Shalom and an early Happy Hanukkah,
Rabbi Renee Bauer

Take Action

President Trump and his administration have engaged in systematic attacks against refugees, and we’re already seeing the painful human impact of these attacks. Trump’s historically low refugee cap, multiple refugee bans, and efforts to halt family reunification are hurting our families, our congregations, and our communities. Our capacity as a nation to welcome refugees is being threatened.
Take action today and tell Congress to oppose the administration’s multiple refugee bans and all-time low cap on refugee admissions.
*Please call 3 times to connect with your 2 Senators and 1 Representative

Legacy gift shows gratitude for welcoming of JSS’s senior lunch program

Friends and community have always been important to Ernie Clasen.
Ernie Clasen gets to hang out with some of his closest friends at lunchtime on most Mondays. Nearly every Monday, he drives, (or gets a ride) to Goodman Lechayim Lunchtime Plus, Jewish Social Services’ senior nutrition program, for its amazing food, great programs, and most importantly, for the friends he has found. As a way to support Jewish Social Services and in particular, in support for senior programs and case management, Ernie has recently let JSS know that he will be leaving an estate gift of $250,000 to Jewish Social Services endowment fund.
Ernie started coming to Lechayim about two years ago, prompted by his good friend Dolores Salganick and her daughter. Ernie said, “Then I met Gary Geller. We became friends. We sit at the same table at Lechayim. And when I met Gary’s wife Denny, she told me, ‘You know whatever we are, Jewish, Catholic, whatever, we are all made from the same stuff.’”
Ernie moved to Madison from Germany in 1957 after seeing an ad in a German newspaper for a “pastry man” at Dykman’s Restaurant. He spoke no English, but took a chance. Ernie came by ship to New York City followed by trains to Chicago and finally Madison. He said that when he finally arrived at his hotel on the Square, he only had $3.50. Luckily, Dykman’s Restaurant was only 1 ½ blocks off the square, so he could walk to work.
Ernie’s boss helped to bring over his fiancée, Ruth Fischer and his younger brother. Ernie and Ruthie were married nearly 53 years. The three bought a small bakery on Parmenter Street in Middleton. This business later evolved into a larger bakery and a chocolate company.
Ernie explains why a German Catholic who emigrated to Madison in 1957 would want to leave a legacy for senior programs and services at Jewish Social Services: “the people that I met. First, when I went I thought that I’m Catholic and German. I was worried, but everyone was so nice. And I don’t want the money to run out for the program.” Ernie is leaving the funds in memory of his good friend and neighbor Dolores Salganick.
For more information, please contact Dawn Berney, Jewish Social Services at (608) 442-4081 or

Refugee Resettlement Update 11/3/17

After a pause for the Jewish holidays our refugee biweekly updates are back. A lot has happened with refugee resettlement since we last communicated. However, refugee news is no longer making the front-page headlines despite the fact that the Trump administration continues its effort to dismantle the refugee program and to ban Muslim immigrants from entering the country.
This Shabbat we will read from Parashat Vayera which begins with Abraham and Sarah welcoming three strangers into their tent. They welcome them, give them a place to rest, water and a home-cooked meal. It turns out that the three men are messengers of God and tell Sarah, who is an old woman, will have a son in the coming year. Their prediction, a miracle, does come true. I think about this story in contrast to where we are as a country today. Locally, here in Madison and in communities around the country, people are responding to refugees like Abraham. They are running to greet them and respectfully providing for their basic needs as they set new homes and lives in this country. Meanwhile the federal government continues its attempts to block refugee entry into the country.
Last week President Trump signed a new executive that generally bars 11 nationalities and stateless Palestinians for at least another 90 days. These eleven nationalities made up 44% of arrivals in the fiscal year from October 1, 2016- September, 30 2017, primarily from Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Iran. The percentage is likely an even higher of those who have been approved for arrival in 2018 and are waiting in the overseas pipeline. The countries are Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and stateless Palestinians. All of these countries except North Korea and South Sudan are Muslim-majority countries.
The Administration’s announcement effectively dismantles the refugee resettlement program. These announcements will affect nearly every refugee waiting for resettlement. It also means that we will see very few refugee arrivals in the next few months and throughout the next year.
We at JSS are awaiting advice from HIAS about what this will be for our community. Meanwhile we are brainstorming ways to keep our refugee resettlement program intact during this new 90 day period so we are ready to welcome refugees when they are allowed in. We are angered and frustrated that we have the resources, the community support and strong structures in place to welcome families but are not receiving any new families. Families in desperate situations who have been approved for resettlement in the United States are now being told that their dreams of a new safe and secure life are on hold.
May the wisdom of this week’s Torah portion of welcoming the stranger with open arms lead us to work for more just policies in the weeks and months to come.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Renee Bauer and Dawn Berney
Read more about the new Executive Order here.
Speak out about the ban here.

General Volunteer Opportunities

The following are some general volunteer opportunities that are needed on an ongoing basis:

Drivers Needed: Help people remain independent! Provide rides to clients for appointments and other destinations on an as-needed and as-available basis.  Requires copies proof of insurance and driver’s license plus a driver’s record check, done at our expense.

Designated Shopper: Help people remain independent by providing assistance and companionship by going shopping or running errands with them. At times, clients may also need someone to pick up groceries or other items for them when they are not able to be accompanied.

Back-up Volunteer Photographer: Take photos at JSS events which will be used for promotional materials and social media.
Bikur Cholim/Friendly Visitor: Opportunities to visit with people in rehabilitation, hospital, or memory care. These visits can be made when convenient for you.
Computer/ Odd Job Help: Elderly and others looking for some help and support with doing small jobs – changing light bulbs, fixing loose hinge, etc. Help also needed to operate and learn basic computer tasks and general electronic devices such as television and remote controls.

Volunteer at holiday, social events, and Oakwood Shabbats: Help the residents of Oakwood Village welcome Shabbat one Friday per month from 3:30p.m.-4:30p.m. Seat guests, pour wine and juice, and distribute challah, interact with the residents of Oakwood Village and their families.

Oakwood Village is looking for volunteers currently to help with Shabbats. Please contact Paul Borowsky if interested. Please stay tuned or call Paul at (608) 442-4083 for updates regarding other holiday opportunities including Menorah delivery for Hanukkah.

One year later the Jewish Community remembers Mindy Wiseman

By Rabbi Renee Bauer
Sukkot is a time of joy on the Jewish calendar but at Jewish Social Services the holiday is tinged with grief. Last year during Sukkot beloved JSS caseworker, Mindy Wiseman, passed away. Mindy who had a long career serving senior adults never reached her senior years. An aggressive form of cancer ended her life days before her 61st birthday.
JSS’s work of helping seniors live independently and make conscious choices about their end-of-life care honors her memory. Mindy was also an early visionary and strong advocate for JSS having a Jewish community chaplain. Mindy helped with JSS’s successful proposal to the Goodman Foundation for a three-year grant to establish the chaplaincy program. In Mindy’s honor, we hope to continue the chaplaincy program indefinitely.
In addition to her dedication to serving others Mindy was a master gardener. In memory of Mindy, Jim Mackman, executive assistant, has planted a garden in the front of the Max Weinstein Jewish Community Building. All spring and summer the flowers bloomed and the blue butterfly statue reminded us daily of Mindy’s spirit. As the garden begins to wither into the cold days of winter we grieve her loss once again. May Mindy’s memory always be for a blessing and may her family and loved ones be comforted among the mourners in Zion and throughout the world.

Jewish Social Services, Our Core Values

By Dawn Berney, Executive Director

The months of August and September have brought significant turmoil to the United States. Charlottesville. Hurricane Harvey. The end of DACA for many teenagers and young adults in our community. Hurricane Irma. Hurricane Jose.

I feel so fortunate to have Jewish Social Services (JSS) here in Dane County. Our team regularly revisits our core values to ensure that our programs, activities and actions are aligned with these values. It gives me hope for myself as well as for my children. It is important to me to show that we can make the world a better place.

Levy Summer Series – this summer we averaged over 90 registrants per luncheon, bringing together people of all ages who might not have met ever before.

Refugee resettlement – Since December, Jewish Social Services has resettled 30 individuals in Madison who could not safely return to their home countries. In addition, we worked to find housing, employment, and schools for another 12 people. These are individuals who had been resettled as refugees to other parts of the United States but had heard about how Madison truly “welcomes the stranger” and has employment options.

Case management – Our team works with senior adults who need appropriate housing. They help families to apply for food assistance or health insurance. They listen to people who are overwhelmed, and need to figure out their next step.

Chaplaincy – JSS and our community is fortunate to have a chaplain who can visit those who need spiritual or emotional support. She provides programs to our seniors where they live, when they cannot necessarily get out into the community at large.


If you would like to learn more about Jewish Social Services and our core values, or you would like to receive support or provide support, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can be reached at (608)442-4081 or on our website at

Standing United for a New Year – 9/15/17

Our Torah portion this Shabbat begins saying, “You stand this day, all of you, before Adonai your God” (Deuteronomy 29:9). The Torah then goes on to explicate who ‘all of you’ are and it includes the ger the stranger. At this important moment of standing before God the stranger, who lives among the Israelites, is included as part of the community. On this last Shabbat before the Jewish New Year our tradition calls us to stand with the entire community, citizen and newcomer alike. However, we are living in a country in which the national discourse is increasingly anti-immigrant and our lawmakers are attempting to keep immigrants and refugees out and divide, rather than unite people.
Since our last email to you the president has announced that he will end the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and the Supreme Court has reaffirmed that the travel ban on all refugees without close family members in the United States will remain in effect. JSS strongly opposes both of these actions and our work is directly affected.
Because of the Supreme Court’s upholding of the travel ban, JSS has had no new refugee families arrive in the last 90 days and are not sure when any more will come. One Syrian family that we did resettle this winter left in the early summer to reunite with family living in Kentucky. After just one month in Kentucky they decided to move back to Madison, where they felt much more at home. They returned and brought their extended family with them. Therefore, we have two new families with 12 members (and one on the way) here in our community. Our community has become a home where refugees want to bring their family, a community that has the resources and desire to welcome new families seeking safety. It is infuriating and heartbreaking that admissions have been stopped by the government and we are not able to resettle more people during the worst global displacement crisis in history.
We at JSS are doing all we can to assure that refugee program remains intact and that refugee admissions begin again soon. Last week, a group of JSS staff and volunteers (adults and teens,) along with World Relief Fox Valley, our resettlement partner in Oshkosh, met with Senator Ron Johnson’s regional director and legislative coordinator. We explained the details of resettlement work and urged the Senator to advocate to the president to set the ceiling on refugee admissions to at least 75,000. We also shared our concerns about ending the DACA program, offering to meet with the Senator to share stories about clients of our agencies who benefit from DACA. Later this month we will have similar meetings with Senator Tammy Baldwin and Representative Pocan’s offices.
This Saturday evening Jews around the world will gather for selichot services during which we begin the communal recitation of the penitential prayers, asking for forgiveness both individually and communally for our misdeeds of the past year. As we take stock in our actions we must ask ourselves how we are making sure that all our community can stand together and how we are taking action to protecting those who are being targeted by the current administration. We have included easy ways to take action below.
May this new year bring more justice to all who live in our community and all those who are seeking safety around the world.
Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah,
Rabbi Renee Bauer

The Call of The Shofar – 9/1/17

As the days begin to shorten and chilly mornings become more common our attention turns to the fall and to the upcoming Jewish High Holidays. At sundown on August 21 the High Holiday season officially began with the ushering in of the Jewish month of Elul. During this month that precedes Rosh Hashanah it is traditional to blow the shofar each day to wake us up to the important work of Teshuvah, of repentance and renewal, that this season demands. This year we hold refugees, those who have been resettled in Madison this year and those who are now barred from coming in our hearts and use the shofar to amplify their cries. Please enjoy and share this liturgical piece written in honor of refugees and in protest of the Presidential travel ban.

Two Volunteer Opportunities – August 22nd, 2017

Near Westside single parent of child with intense emotional and behavioral challenges seeks assistance with (1) yard and garden work and (2) small home repairs.

This parent is hard working in the field of social services and is dedicated to prioritizing the needs of her two children, which means that attention to the house/yard is lacking.  The following are project-based requests – not ongoing.

  • Please consider volunteering time or funds to weed  and prune garden beds. It would be great to gather a small group of people to take a Sunday (or weekday) to pitch in and create beauty from the chaos.
  • Home repairs include stair rail, window blinds, curtain mount, door frame trim. Please consider volunteering time or fund a contractor to improve safety in this family’s home, which could likely be done in a morning or afternoon.

    Your assistance would provide great relief to mom, and she would be extremely grateful – as it is difficult to face the overwhelm of upkeep in the face of her family demands.

You can make a positive difference in the lives of this special needs child’s family.  Please email Maya Garbuz today at  or call 608-658-2240