Refugee Resettlement Update from Rabbi Renee Bauer – 6/9/17

Immigration and Faith panel at the Carnegie Corporation of New York: Pastor Rich Nathan, Reverend Jennifer Butler and Rabbi Renee Bauer (Father James Martin not photographed here).

As I looked out the taxi window and saw the Welcome to New York City sign, I had a clear sense of my purpose the next day. I was bringing to the halls of power the message of the refugees we were settling, the DACA students we have assisted and the many immigrants who have been clients of JSS. How profound that my grandparents arrived in this city and saw some version of the welcome sign as refugees themselves. I was here now because they were welcomed then.

I had the privilege to speak on June 1 at the quarterly board meeting of the Carnegie Corporation of New York on a panel about faith and immigration. I brought stories of the families we have resettled here in Madison and the bridges we are building between faith communities as we do this work. In our next email update we will share a podcast that the Carnegie produced of the panel participants.

As I was making the presentation in New York, volunteers were working hard here in Madison to prepare the permanent apartment of our newest refugee family. The family of a single mother and three young children had arrived to the country in mid-May and had been living in temporary housing. This family is beginning to settle now into their new home. Meanwhile our refugee staff members and volunteers are preparing to welcome the next family to arrive. Our first Iraqi family will arrive on June 20 which is World Refugee Day.

The UN declared June 20 World Refugee Day in 2001 to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. It has become a day to celebrate and honor the vast contributions that refugees make. It is also an opportunity to rally increased welcome and support for refugees.

In preparation for World Refugee Day JSS is joining the Stand With Refugee Campaign from June 12-16 to call lawmakers and send a powerful message: We welcome refugees. The goal of the week is to flood the switchboard of Congress with messages that citizens across the country believe in the United States remaining a welcoming country. We ask you to participate:
  • Call 1-844-4STAND5 (1-844-478-2635) during this week, and we’ll connect you directly to your representative and senators. And then email Rabbi Renee Bauer at JSS to let her know you made the call.
  • Text “STAND” to 313131 to receive a reminder about the campaign.
  • Encourage your family, friends and co-workers from around the country to do the same.
  • To learn more, see  http://www.standwithrefugees.us/ or email StandWithRefugees@wr.org

An Update from the JSS Refugee Resettlement Team – 5/12/17

“It is not up to you to complete the task but neither are you free to desist from it” (Pirke Avot 2:21).

Rabbi Bauer, Bob Skloot and Cynthia Hirsch meet with Congressman Marc Pocan

This has been a week of swirling national news that moves so quickly and makes change seems beyond our control. Despite the changing headlines the JSS refugee resettlement team continues to stay focused on the project of welcoming new families to our community while advocating for our country to keep our borders open. We write you this update as an antidote to the helplessness that can arise from the current events of the day.

1.  JSS Case workers Rihab Taha and Becca Schwartz are working hard with volunteers to prepare for the next family who will arrive next week. This Congolese family is made up of a mother and three children. Plans are being made to give extra support to this single mother. If you speak Swahili and would be able to volunteer with JSS, please contact Rihab.

2. As new families arrive our original families are feeling more settled in Madison. The three first families have been here more than 90 days. Ninety days marks a shift in the official status of the resettlement effort as it means that the initial period of Resettlement and Placement is complete. In the first 90 days the State Department dictates several core services that the resettlement agency (JSS) must provide to the new families. These include setting up health assessments, enrolling adult family members in ESL classes and children in school, a cultural orientation to life in the U.S., an introduction to public transportation and much more. Although families have some more grounding in the US and most have jobs after 90 days they still need a lot of support. As we have always done with our clients, JSS continues to serve families after the initial 90 day period. We have committed to work with the families we resettle until they are independent and thriving in our community and that does not dramatically change after the initial resettlement period.
3. Earlier this week Rabbi Bauer spoke at Holy Wisdom Monastery on a panel about the intersection of spirituality and politics, sharing the work that JSS is doing as we live up to our tradition of welcoming the stranger.
4. On Wednesday Rabbi Bauer and two JSS volunteers, Bob Skloot, and Cynthia Hirsch, met with Congressman Marc Pocan. We shared the details of our local resettlement efforts and ask for his help and advice on advocating for the continuation of the refugee program in the 2018 budget. We will be asking you in early June to join us in a national effort to bombard congress with phone calls advocating for refugees. Please watch for updates.

An Afghani Father Reunites with His Daughter Here in Madison – 4/21/17

JSS Resettlement Team and Volunteers and Family Help to Resettle

We hope all of you in the Jewish community had a joyful Passover. The holiday of Passover is over but the journey to freedom has just begun. Passover celebrates the liberation from Egypt but it is during the current period on the Jewish calendar, the 49 days between Passover and the holiday of Shavuot, that we recount our people’s long journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. Similarly, we know that as we welcome refugees to our community that their journey to safety and security does not end when they arrive in the United States. They have a long journey to establish a life here in their new country and JSS walks the road to independence with them each step of the way.
We began the journey with a new family this week. On Wednesday evening our JSS resettlement team greeted an Afghani family of four as they stepped off the bus in Madison. This is the first family we are resettling that has family here in the US. Watching the grown daughter reunite with her father and his family was heartwarming. This family arrived on a Special Immigrant Visa which means they have helped the US military in Afghanistan and are under threat in their country because of this service. Legally this family is in a different category than other refugees, but also are leaving their country because of imminent danger. Once here, they will also need to learn English, find jobs and acculturate to this country.
This Passover we retold the story of our people’s escape from oppression and now we count the days of their journey through the wilderness. We are commanded to tell the Passover story as if Exodus happened to us in our own day. How better can we do this than by helping to assure that those fleeing war in other countries are welcomed into our country. We urge you to continue to advocate for and support the refugees coming to Madison.
Thank you for all your support.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Renee Bauer and Dawn Berney

 

 

 

(Thank you all all of the participants at our Volunteer Orientation. Here are some of them.)

Action Items:

  • Volunteer orientations: We have two volunteer orientations for current and interested volunteers. The first was today and we had over twenty volunteers. The second is on Monday, April 24th at the Sequoya Library, 5:30pm-7:30pm. Please email Becca Schwartz  if you are interested.
  • Donate to the newly arrived families. See this link for current needs: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090445aca92aabfb6-jssrefugeeasylee.You can also use this link to donate toward helping pay two months of rent for each family. The JSS team and board have decided that we want to raise these funds to help the families a bit longer while they are acclimated. The donations that we receive from the community will help us to reach our goals.
  • Advocate for Refugees by calling your senators and representatives to show your support for the federal refugee program. See details here “How to Stand Up and Fight Back for Refugees”.
  • March for Refugees: May 1st is International Worker’s Day which is an historic day to respect the contributions of workers, organize in support of workers’ rights, and demonstrate solidarity with immigrants. This May 1st, there are marches and rallies around the country to resist President Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, and anti-Muslim policies. Locally there are actions in Madison and Milwaukee:
    • MADISON MAY DAY RALLY: Day Without Immigrants and Refugees Monday, May 1 at Brittingham Park 11:00 am.
    • STATEWIDE RALLY: Day without Latinos, Immigrants & Refugees. Monday, May 1, 12:00-3:00 PM in Milwaukee. Please go to  https://www.facebook.com/VocesdelaFronteraWI/ for details

Passover Update from Refugee Resettlement at JSS – 4/7/17

Last week I attended the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Convention in Portland, Oregon. At the end one of my colleagues closed the gathering with a prayer. He recited the words from Rabbi Shelia Peltz Weinberg’s adaptation of the traditional Jewish Traveler’s Prayer which begins:

A prayer for the journey
We could say it every day
When we first leave the soft warmth of our beds
And don’t know for sure if we’ll return at night.
When we get in the trains, planes and automobiles
And put our lives in the hands of many strangers
Or when we leave our homes for a day, a week, a month or more –
Will we return to a peaceful home? Untouched by fire, flood or crime?
How will our travels change us?
What gives us the courage to go through the door?

As I heard these words, tears welled up in my eyes. They were not tears for myself and my journey but were for the refugee families I have been working with at JSS. These families will not return to a peaceful home untouched by fire, flood or crime. They will likely never return home as their homes have been ravaged by war. I wondered, with deep admiration, what courage they must have had not only to flee their homeland but also to travel halfway around the world to begin a new life. For them, their travel will change them and their lives more than would ever choose to be changed. I, at that moment, understood my deep privilege of being able to leave and return home. I recognized the freedom I have to choose when and if I travel.

On Monday night Jews will celebrate our freedom as we begin the holiday of Passover. Passover celebrates our ancestors’ journey from persecution to freedom. This year when we open the Haggadah, let us think about the refugees who have joined our community this year and have just recently completed their own Exodus. The Haggadah reminds us that freedom is not simple and does not always taste as sweet as the harosset on the seder plate. The Israelites, we are told, complained to God and Moses as they wandered through the desert and some of them expressed their yearning to return to Egypt. The Israelites’ freedom was paired with responsibility. The people are given 10 commandments and a law code of how to live as a community. So too, the refugee families JSS serves miss their families and their homeland and they struggle in different ways to hold all the responsibilities that come with creating independent lives in their new country.
As we celebrate Passover this week, may we awaken to freedoms we have that we often take for granted. And may we empathize with the complexities of the journey that our new families have made and continue to make as they rebuild their lives.
Hag Pesach Sameach,
Rabbi Renee Bauer
Action Items: 

  • Lift up refugees at your own seder using the 2017 HIAS Haggadah Supplement
  • Click here to learn about what help is needed to help the refugee families already here and the one coming very soon. Or please contact Becca or Paul.
  • US senators and representatives will be in Wisconsin for the two-week spring recess beginning on April 10. We will have a meeting with representatives from Senator Baldwin’s office but have been denied a meeting with Senator Johnson. Please call Senator Johnson to request your own meeting and let him know about your concern and care for refugees while he is home. We are also setting up a meeting with Representative Pocan and contacting House Speaker Ryan to discuss our concerns. Please call your representatives in the next two weeks to let them know you want our country to continue to welcome refugees from all countries.
  • Community Events: JSS leaders will speaking on issues of refugees and immigration at the following upcoming community events:

    Immigration Round Table: April 30, 2017, 2-4 pm, First Congregational UCC, Baraboo

    Sacred Citizenship: The Connection between Politics and Spirituality May 9 5:15-7:30 PM, Holy Wisdom Monastery

    Methodist Federation for Social Action Annual Conference, June 16

Donation needed:
A shopping carts a family can take on the sidewalk/bus for grocery shopping. Please contact Sherie Sondel if you are able to donate such a cart.

Volunteer help needed:
  • We need volunteers to help with office work for our resettlement program. We are a variety of different needs. Contact Paul Borowsky if you can help.
  • We are in the process of planning a really fun fundraiser event. If you want to help with the planning, contact Leora Saposnik, our event chairperson.
Advocate for refugees:
Call your legislators and let them know that you support refugee program and oppose the executive orders banning refugees. Go to www.rcusa.org/advocate-now  for information of how to advocate.

Volunteer Opportunities: Refugee Resettlement Program

Many people have been asking, “How can I  help?” We’ve put together a list of opportunities that will really have a significant impact on the lives of our new community members. Please take a look and contact Becca or Paul if you can help us.

We have four families in Madison already, and it now looks like there will be more on the way.With the newest executive order on hold, the State Department is actually picking up the pace of moving refugees to the United States. We need your help to be ready.

Transportation Management Volunteer Lead – help schedule rides and lessons about biking, bussing and walking in Madison

 

Housing Volunteer Lead – help to find affordable, safe apartments with access to public transportation and services

 

Employment/Education Volunteer Lead – help our families to find appropriate employment and education for long-term success

 

Please don’t forget that we still need you to advocate for refugees:

Call your legislators and let them know that you support refugee program and oppose the executive orders banning refugees. Go to www.rcusa.org/advocate-now  for information of how to advocate.

Thank you to everyone working with JSS and the new families and for making them feel welcome.

Working Together for Justice for Refugees and Immigrants – 3/24/17

This week as we prepare for Shabbat, we are thankful that the stay on the executive ban that would have halted the refugee program for at least 120 days remains in effect and that refugees continue to arrive in our country. CEO of HIAS Mark Hetfield words echo our sentiments at JSS,

“While this is a temporary measure, we are pleased that the court has recognized the irreparable harm done to refugees who are prevented from finding safety in this country… As a Jewish organization that serves people of all faiths, we had grave concerns about the government’s attempt to impose a lightly edited Muslim ban. Such religious discrimination has no place in America, as the court has rightly recognized.”

The stay that was issued by the Federal district court in Hawaii last week not only is allowing travel into the U.S. to continue, but also puts a temporary restraining order on lowering of admissions from 110,000 in to 50,000 in this fiscal year. This means that more refugees will be coming during the temporary stay. That is news to celebrate. Here at JSS we will continue to support the refugee families we have welcomed and wait to hear about new families that will be placed with us.
We are continually grateful and amazed by the outpouring of support the community has given JSS as we have launched our newly reconstituted refugee resettlement program. This week’s Torah portion speaks about such generosity. The Israelites are commanded to donate the materials needed to build the Mishkan. They give in such abundance that Moses says, “The people are bringing more than is needed for the tasks entailed in the work.” So he declares, “Let no man or woman make further effort toward gifts for the sanctuary.” (Exodus 36:5-6).
The people brought more than was needed to build the Mishkan so Moses had to stop the giving! There are times at JSS we have had a similar experience. There have been more offers of gifts and help for refugee resettlement than we can use and may overwhelm our new neighbors. What a wonderful blessing of abundance! As we at JSS continue to work with families from all over the world as well as all over Dane Cuonty, we will need your help. Sometimes we will have many requests and other times we will revel in the abundance and have fewer requests. Please know that knowledge of your support continues to sustain the staff and the refugees as they make the difficult transition into life in the United States even when there is not an immediate need. And as always, please consider helping with some of our other programs as well.
I suspect that the people bringing gifts to the Mishkan who were told to stop were probably very frustrated. But despite the frustration God’s presence comes to dwell in the Mishkan at the end of today’s Torah portion. So too, God’s presence dwells in our community as we work together to welcome refugees at this difficult time in our country.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Renee Bauer and Dawn Berney

What you can do right now:

Donation needed:

A shopping carts a family can take on the sidewalk/bus for grocery shopping. Please contact Sherie Sondel if you are able to donate such a cart.

Volunteer help needed:
  • We need volunteers to help with office work for our resettlement program. We are a variety of different needs. Contact Paul Borowsky if you can help.
  • We are in the process of planning a really fun fundraiser event. If you want to help with the planning, contact Leora Saposnik, our event chairperson.
     
Advocate for refugees:
Call your legislators and let them know that you support refugee program and oppose the executive orders banning refugees. Go to www.rcusa.org/advocate-now  for information of how to advocate.
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We hope these email updates are helpful. As there isn’t as much information to share every week, we will be sending these updates every other week instead of every week. Please share them with friends and neighbors who would like to support the refugee resettlement program.

Jewish Social Services Reacts to the new Refugee Ban – 3/10/17

Saturday evening begins the Jewish holiday of Purim, our festive celebration full of merriment, groggers, costumes and drinking until we don’t know the difference between Haman (villain) and Mordechai (hero). The revelry of Purim often overshadows the important lesson the holiday offers us. The holiday is the story of dangerous governmental power and the courage of one woman to stand up to that power and save an entire community.

This Shabbat, the Shabbat preceding Purim, is Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat of remembrance. In synagogue tomorrow a special reading from the Book of Deuteronomy is added to the Torah reading. The ironic passage tells us to both remember and forget, “You shall blot out the memory of Amalek [the ancestor of Haman who plots to destroy the Jews in the Purim story] from under heaven. Do not forget!” Deuteronomy 26:19. We are commanded to remember the evil that we have encountered in our history and simultaneously blot out such evil from the face of the earth.

This week each of us, Jewish and non-Jewish, synagogue attendees and secular Jews, must heed this powerful call. On Monday President Trump signed a new Executive Order halting the U.S. refugee program and banning travel to the United States from six majority Muslim countries for 90 days. The executive order is revised in some very important ways from the original ban (you can read a synopsis here). However, the effect on refugees is the same. When the ban takes effect on March 16 refugees from any country will be banned for 120 days from entering the United States. There are currently 61,467 refugees approved to come to the U.S. who will be impacted.  (as of March 1, 2017; this number includes 7,879 Syrians, 13,302 Somalis, 1,666 Sudanese, 28 Yemenis, 597 Iranians).
This Executive Order, like the original one, also takes the devastating effect of cutting the number of refugees permitted to enter the U.S. this fiscal year from 110,000 to 50,000. This is the lowest resettlement cap in the history of the program which resettled Jewish refugees during World War II, Vietnamese refugees in the 1980’s and many others from around the world. During the largest forced migration crisis in recorded history, it is reprehensible for our country to close its doors.
The president signed the order in the Oval Office with no fanfare, outside the view of reporters and news cameras on the same day that the new health care bill was released. Such a series of events seem to be a tactic to avoid the same outcry and national protest that followed the signing of the original ban. Therefore, we must double down in our efforts to raise our voices against the immorality and injustice of the ban.

As we remember and celebrate the victory over the discrimination and near destruction of the Jewish community in the Purim story, we must stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters to work to overturn this new executive order. Like Esther, we must use our power as established members of this country to help those seeking safety and security in our country.Please join me in taking action:

  1. By joining HIAS’s #BeEsther for Refugees campaign
  2. And by continuing to call your legislators to protest the ban. 
Shabbat Shalom and Hag Purim Sameach,
Rabbi Renée Bauer and Dawn Berney
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Come to Two Training for Staff and Volunteers
1. United for a Safe Community (March 23, 5-8pm)
2. Immigration Legal Issues in the U.S. (March 30, 8:30-10am)

Session 1: United Way of Dane County, in partnership with community agencies, including JSS invites you to an evening of facilitated discussions around the ways we can work together to address the increasing hate behaviors and crimes occurring in our community. These discussions will concentrate on best practices on how to work with families who are facing fear, bullying, and anxiety in regards to discrimination. Resources and food will also be available to all participants.Childcare available upon request.

REGISTRATION at this link

FOR QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS TRAINING: Contact Baltazar De Anda Santana.

Working Together for Justice for Refugees and Immigrants – 3/3/17

Staff and Volunteers Waiting for New Family at the Airport

(Talmud, Taanit 29a)

This past Sunday and Monday began the Jewish month of Adar, the month in which we celebrate Purim. There are many joyous Jewish holidays but this is the only that affects the attitude of the entire month. When we hear about the anti-immigrant crackdowns that the federal government is pursuing and await the signing of a revised refugee ban it can be hard to feel that we are entering an auspicious month of joy.

As we continue to search for ways to advocate for keeping our country open and welcoming, we must find moments of celebration in our work. This week at JSS we had plenty of joy when we welcomed a new refugee family to Madison from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The family of four women, two sisters who are here with two grown daughters, arrived on Tuesday. Their arrival, despite the long travel and extra night in Newark, NJ, was described by our refugee staff as joyous. The women are very happy to be here.

They spent their first hours in Madison enjoying lunch with JSS staff members, the family who is hosting them, and a Rwandan man who provided a home cooked meal. The man who spoke their native language offered a prayer over the meal that brought the new family to tears.

In that moment of sharing food and tears of relief for finding safety and a new home, joy did indeed increase.  As it says in the Book of Esther, “The month that was reversed for them from grief to joy”  (Book of Esther 9:22). As you continue to support JSS’s refugee and immigration programs may you also find moments of that are transformed from grief to joy.

See our work in the press: Wisconsin Jewish ChronicleThe CapTimes
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Renee Bauer and Dawn Berney

p.s. If you have a medium size raincoat for a man or a woman, we could use them. (One of each). Please let Rihab know at rihab@jssmadison.org.

Staff and Volunteers Waiting for New Family at the Airport

A big thank you to Hadassah’s Collectors Corner for graciously providing warm and comfortable clothes for our new refugee family. They were so incredibly helpful. Todah rabah!
We received a generous donation from 5th Element Coffee for the work JSS is doing with refugees and immigrants.
¡Muchas gracias!

Jewish Social Services Continues to Welcome the Immigrant – 2/24/17

This week brought us more devastating policy news from the Federal Government. This week the targets were not refugees but undocumented immigrants. The Department of Homeland Security unveiled sweeping new guidelines that will almost certainly increase detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants. While these guidelines for deportation priorities explicitly excluded immigrants protected under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (known as DACA), for the first time a young man protected by DACA was put into detention. These orders have caused a wave of fear to grip immigrant communities throughout Madison and the United States.

JSS’s immigration legal services team works here in Madison and surrounding areas. We help people apply for DACA protection, permanent residency status, citizenship and asylum. This work is not new to JSS but has heightened importance in this political climate. Each day our team meets and talks with clients who are afraid. Historically, individuals with green cards have felt safe in the U.S. The green card serves as proof that its holder, a lawful permanent resident, has been officially granted immigration benefits, including permission to reside and take employment in the United States. Now record numbers of green card holders are applying for citizenship so they can feel safe in the U.S. and feel safe leaving the country to visit family. The JSS team works with them.

The JSS team is also working with young people wanting DACA protection. For example, a family came to JSS this week who have been here eighteen years and have three children, two of whom were born here and are citizens.They brought their eldest child to the U.S. as a toddler. Now a young adult, JSS was able to help him to receive DACA protection. He can work legally and obtained a driver’s license. But applying for DACA carries significant risk to the family as the U.S. government now has all the family’s information. The parents fear deportation and are scared for their American born young children who have never been to Mexico and do not read or write in Spanish. The team discussed a safety plan and guardianship options for the children.

These immigrant members of our community need us to raise our voices to combat the policies that cause fear and hate.  You can read a call to action from a Madison Latino leader

And you can go to the website of Voces de la Frontera to get information about how you can take action.

Jewish Social Services Says Thank You to the Madison Muslim Community

On Monday, February 20, the following letter was sent to the media:
We, the Madison Muslim Community and the Madinah Community Center, stand with Jewish Community and condemn in the strongest possible terms the bomb threats made against several Jewish Community Centers across United States, including one in Wisconsin.
We call upon the law enforcement officers for a prompt apprehension of the perpetrator(s) and bring them to justice.
Our community will continue to stand with all other minorities who are subject to hate.  According to Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups in the United States rose for the second straight year in 2016.
We all need to work together to replace acts of hatred with acts of kindness.
Masood Akhtar, Advisor to the Madison Muslim Community and the Madinah Community Center


Refugee Resettlement Update:

This week at JSS the refugee resettlement team and volunteers continue to support the refugee families. Cultural orientation began this week to help these new arrivals learn more about their new country. All the adults are in English classes. Two of them are looking for employment and 4 others are adjusting to their jobs.  We are also gearing up to welcome a new family from the Democratic Republic of Congo at the end of February.

We are in need of three adult rain coats (one Men’s medium, one Men’s small and one Women’s medium). Please let Rihab know if you have one to donate.

As our new resettlement program takes root and begins to run more smoothly, we are saddened by the fact that President Trump’s executive ban has radically reduced the number of refugees who will be allowed in the country this year. JSS will most likely not get the 50 refugees we planned to resettle this year because of this reduction. HIAS has filed a legal challenge to the reduction in the number of refugees. To read about their work go to HIAS Files Preliminary Injunction Challenging Reduction of Refugee Admissions to 50,000.

We urge you to take action. If you have not done so, please Sign THIS PETITION. And to find out more about the actions you can take please go to www.refugeesarewelcome.org/get-involved/.

Engaging in advocacy or even following the national news can be exhausting and disheartening these days. Each of us needs to find ways to care for ourselves as we do this work. Shabbat is a sacred time in which we get a taste of a more perfect world, of a messianic time. Shabbat is not the time to create that world but to experience the beauty and holiness of our existence. We can then emerge from Shabbat ready to do the work to roll up our sleeves and do our part to make that messianic vision a reality.

May your Shabbat be a time of peace and rejuvenation.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Renee Bauer and Dawn Berney

JSS Refugee Resettlement Update for the Community – 2/17/17

This week’s Torah portion, Parashat Yitro, begins with Moses’s father-in-law asking Moses why he is doing all the governance and ministering of justice on his own. He tells Moses, “the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone” (Exodus 18:1). He tells Moses that he must train others to help him administer justice.
Like Moses, the work of resettling and advocating for refugees is too heavy for the small staff at JSS to do alone. We are one step ahead of Moses. We know we need help and are blessed with a supportive community and an extraordinary team of volunteers who make the work of JSS possible.

Thank you to the overwhelming response we received after last week’s email. We now have enough volunteers to drive one of the new arrived refugees to work until winter is over and he can consistently bike. It is amazing to have volunteers willing to help at 5:30AM! We also received two bikes for the men who requested them.

The three families who are here continue to move toward integration and independence. The two children from the first family who arrived in late December began pre-school this week and the five-year-old girl from our most recently arrived family can now introduce herself in English!

While the news on national front is much more challenging than the local successes, there are many who support refugee resettlement in our communities. We encourage you to look at the letter sent earlier this week and signed by 202 Kindertransport survivors and descendants to urge President Trump to keep America’s doors open to today’s refugees. The letter is posted here.

This letter was organized by the Kindertransport Association -a not-for-profit organization that unites child Holocaust refugees and their descendants. Jewish Social Services is proud to stand with this group in urging the President and Members of Congress to protect and welcome children and families who flee persecution.
We are grateful that the courts continue to rule in favor of keeping our borders open. However, in the original executive order that President Trump signed on January 27, he reduced the number of refugees that will be allowed in this country during the 2016-2017 fiscal year from 110,000 to 50,000. This part of the executive order remains in effect. The decrease has received less the attention but will have a drastic effect on people seeking refuge in our country. It will also reduce the number of refugees JSS will resettle this year. Unfortunately, we no longer expect the three families from Syria and Eritrea that had been matched with JSS to come to the United States because of the reduced quota. We do expect to welcome a new family from the Democratic Republic of Congo at the end of this month. We will keep you updated on their arrival.
We need your help again this week.
  1. We need bike lights for two bikes. Please contact Becca Schwartz if you have some to donate.
  2. Our staff would like to meet with our senators and representatives when they are in recess in Wisconsin next week. HIAS would like for us (and our volunteers) to educate our government officials about the importance of refugee resettlement and to strongly encourage the increase the number of refugees that can welcomed this year. Please contact Rabbi Bauer if you are able to get an appointment with members of congress and she will provide you with talking points.
  3. We are looking for a two bedroom apartment for our newest incoming family. If you know of one (preferably west of the Capitol), heat included, on a bus route, heat included, for less than $900 per month, please contact RihabTaha or Becca Schwartz.
  4. Please sign HIAS’s petition if you have not already.

Jethro tells Moses in this week’s Torah portion that if he gets help from others he will hold up and the people will go in peace. So too do we depend on you to hold up our program and thank you for all you do.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Renee Bauer
Dawn Berney