Last month’s convergence of Easter, Passover and Ramadan highlighted the spiritual connections across religions, and around the globe.
April also marked the 12th anniversary of the Syrian civil war. It’s gotten little publicity in the US. But 12 million people have been forced from their homes.
Nine of them now live close to Westport.
Thanks to a multi-faith effort — including the Conservative Synagogue of Westport, the Muslim community of Westport, St. Luke Church and Temple Israel — and the work of the Interfaith Refugee Resettlement Committee, they’re making new lives for themselves here.
The extended family — a father, pregnant mother and 2-year-old boy; close relatives with two parents, 16- and 14-year-old boys and 11-year-old girl, and the mother’s brother — arrived in April from Turkey. They fled Aleppo 9 years earlier.
One of the Syrian refugee families …
The IRRC — which resettled an extended Afghan family of 11 last year — takes a lead in community co-sponsorship. The non-profit works with synagogues, churches and non-profits to implement a self-help program that provides families with a path to self-sufficiency and assimilation.
The organization provided the Afghan refugees with a furnished house, transportation, access to healthcare and legal support, food, clothes, ESL classes, and aid in finding jobs. They plan to return the favor to new families, like the Syrians.
The effort cuts both ways. IIRC sees its work as also returning value to local communities through cultural enrichment, diversity and economic growth.
… and the other.
In addition to the Westport religious institutions, First Church of Fairfield and the Al Madany Center of Norwalk, IIRC partners with Jewish Family Services of Greenwich, and the local Muslim community.
Rabbi Michael Friedman of Temple Israel says:
This effort merges our deeply-cherished Jewish values with our families’ lived historical experience. The Torah calls upon us countless times to welcome the stranger, because we once knew oppression in the land of Egypt.
Moreover, so many of us treasure our own family stories of a relative arriving in the United States with little to their name, often seeking shelter from persecution, committed to pursuing all the opportunities this nation had to offer. Now is our chance to help another family follow the same arc.
The IIRC says, “The US has a long tradition of resettling refugees, rooted in inspiring generosity and the immigrant roots of each one of our citizens.
“There is no better way to contribute to our national self-interest and, at the same time, answer God’s call to give fearlessly.”
But, they note, their work extends beyond religion.
“Whether you see this as God’s work, or the nation’s work, the need is great. Helping to change the life of another helps repair the world.”