Refugee Resettlement Update 2/16/18

What does the month of Adar mean to us?
This has been a week of difficult news with the tragic mass shooting at a High School in Florida and the failure of the Senate to pass a bill that would protect DACA recipients. On the Jewish calendar, however, today is Rosh Chodesh Adar, the first of the Jewish month of Adar, the month in which we celebrate the holiday of Purim. The Talmud teaches, “When the month of Adar enters, we increase in joy”. (Talmud, Ta’anit 29a) Adar is joyous and auspicious because the Jews escaped near annihilation at the hands of Haman in the Purim story. The are many joyous dates on the Jewish calendar but none other than Purim affect an entire month.
There is plenty of challenging and disturbing news about immigration and refugees right now, which I could certainly focus on in this update. But in honor of Rosh Hodesh Adar I want to share bits of uplifting news about refugee resettlement this week.
  • Since the last email update, President Trump’s latest refugee ban has expired, and the administration has begun resuming admissions from the 11 countries that had been affected by the last ban. There will be additional screening measures for people from these countries which will mostly likely mean slow and limited admissions from these countries.
  • JSS has been matched and accepted an Iraqi Kurdish family for resettlement and is waiting for travel to be booked so we can welcome this family to our community. Iraq was one of the 11 countries that was part of the last ban so receiving news of an Iraqi arrival is certainly joyous.
  • We have good news from one of the Syrian refugee families that I wrote about in my last e-mail, who has been a ‘stuck case’ (matched for resettlement with JSS but not granted travel). Our resettlement case worker has heard from this family who is in a refugee camp in Jordan. They have been asked to begin their health screening process again, which a positive sign that they may finally be moving toward being granted travel to Madison. We now must simply wait and hope that process continues to move forward.
  • Our welcoming congregations program has begun in earnest. Congregation Sha’arei Shamayim is working hard to prepare for the next refugee family to arrive. Meanwhile, a few other communities are in the process of creating infrastructure to take on the pre-arrival tasks for families that will hopefully arrive in the spring. Seasoned JSS volunteers are an integral part of mentoring these communities as they learn the ropes of the resettlement process. It is heartwarming to see new and old volunteers working together to support the program.
  • One of our most recent arrivals, a family from Afghanistan, just welcomed a new baby. The baby and mom are doing well and celebrating their growing family in their new home.
  • Three Syrian families we welcomed in December and January of last year are applying for Green Cards now that they have passed their one-year anniversary in this country.
May this joyous news be just the beginning. The Book of Esther teaches that about the month of Adar that “The month was reversed for them from grief to joy”. (Book of Esther, 9:22) So too may we continue to work together to reverse the tide for refugees and immigrants in our country.
Hodesh Tov and Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Renee Bauer
Take Action
Even though the Senate voted down the immigration bill that would have protected dreamers we must continue to raise our voices in support of DACA recipients. It is critical that our national leaders find legislative solutions that reflect our commitment to family unity and offer a pathway to citizenship for as many dreamers as possible – without jeopardizing other immigrant populations. Our elected leaders also need to hear that their constituents urge them to oppose any proposal that would prevent family unification, deprive dreamers of an opportunity to pursue a pathway to citizenship, or increase the immigration detention, deportation, and border militarization machine.

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