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Hineni: Welcoming New Americans

Hineni: Welcoming New Americans

Hineni: Welcoming New Americans addresses the wide variety of needs of refugees arriving in St. Louis through the International Institute of St. Louis (IISTL). The goal of the work of the Institute is to welcome, acclimate, settle and assist refugees.

Community Contact Information

Congregation Shaare Emeth

Saint Louis, MO

http://www.sestl.org

Goals

  • Live out Congregation’s commitment to “acknowledge our community: we recognize that we are citizens of a larger religious and secular community, and we accept and embrace our communal and civic responsibility through our words and deeds.”
  • Connect work to Jewish values including welcoming the stranger, not standing idly by while others struggle and the commandment to wish for the other that which we have ourselves.
  • Work with the IISTL to assist refugees to find a welcoming community and orient them to life in St. Louis. This includes everything from setting up an apartment to finding the grocery store, learning how to ride a bus, finding employment and enjoying the cultural activities that St. Louis offers.
  • Educate congregation about the issues facing refugees to advocate on behalf of immigrants and refugees on local, city, state and Federal levels.

Partnerships

  • Parkway United Church of Christ
  • JCRC (Jewish Community Relations Council)
  • HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society)
  • MOASIC
  • JCNA (Jewish Coalition for New Americans)

Implementation

Rosh Hashanah 2015

Congregant Stan Shanker heard Rabbi Bennett’s sermon about the Syrian refugee crisis. As a Jew, the issue struck Stan’s soul. He met with Rabbi Andrea Goldstein to determine how Shaare Emeth could become involved in welcoming refugees.

October 2015-February 2016:

Research on how the refugees would be welcomed to St. Louis and what organizations were sanctioned to do this work.

March 2016

Suzanne Lelaurin, Senior Vice President at the IISTL speaks at Shaare Emeth for Tzedek Shabbat

Tzedek Committee officially recommends to Board of Trustees to adopt the Hineni: Welcoming New Americans program. Board of Trustees unanimously votes to adopt this program. Stan Shanker, congregant is named chair of this program.

Publicity went out to the congregation to solicit volunteers. Training began with the IISTL for all volunteers.

April 2016

Congregant Harvey Lehrer is named chair for collecting goods that are needed by the refugees.

June 2016

Volunteers trained by IISTL and Shaare Emeth begin welcoming refugees.

July 2016

Sub-committee chaired by congregant Leanne Schneider makes lunch for refugees. This lunch is served at the IISTL and allows for the refugees to sit with our congregants to practice their English.

High Holidays 2016

Children at Congregation Shaare Emeth make English picture books for the refugee children.

Sukkot 2016

Blake Hamilton, Vice President of Workforce Solutions from the IISTL speaks to the congregation to educate them on the issues involved with employment for the new Americans. Welcome signs are made by congregants for the refugees under the guidance of artist/congregant Tsila Schwartz.

November 2016

Religious School students learn about the new Americans and make coloring books for them.

December 2016

Families including three Bnei Mitzvah students provide three days of Winter Fun for the families at the IISTL.

Partnering with Parkway United Church of Christ to provide needed Christmas gifts to new Americans.

January 2017

Stan Shanker, lay Chair expands our involvement by connecting us to Mosaic, an organization that helps the new Americans after the first three months in St. Louis.

February 2017

With help from Mosaic, congregation’s youth group hosts 100 new Americans for a fun afternoon at a local children’s museum. Sisterhood and Brotherhood pay for the buses. B’nei Mitzvah families, youth group students and other adults chaperone a fun afternoon for all. This is the first Discover St. Louis program, one we hope that will expand.

March 2017

Representatives from the congregation, clergy and staff join a community rally at Senator Blunt’s office against the Immigration Ban.

Congregants are encouraged to write letters and make phone calls to their representatives and senators against the ban.

Schpiel includes gifts of diapers, grocery store gift cards and umbrellas for the New Americans. These were items that were specifically requested by The Institute.

April 2017

IISTL calls upon our congregation and the JCRC to help provide a ½ day summer camp for children for five weeks. JCRC forms JCNA (Jewish Coalition for New Americans) which includes Reform, Conservative and Orthodox congregations working on a ½ day summer camp for July 2017. Stan Shanker serves as chair of the JCNA.

We begin the conversation and education about what it could mean to become a Sanctuary city.

Tzedek committee approves and recommended to the Board of Trustees to put out yard signs from HIAS. We sell the yard signs as well. This is the first major step in the conversation about Sanctuary.

Bat Mitzvah student with her family works with our committee to have an afternoon of gymnastics and pizza for the new American families.

May 2017

Congregation sends a delegation to the Consultation on Conscience including two rabbis, one educator and lay leaders.

Pat Joshu, Executive Director of Immigrant and Refugee Women's Program speaks at Tzedek Shabbat. This quarter’s Tzedakah is being donated to this organization.

Results

IISTL has welcomed 1200 families since the spring of 2016. These families are from Syria, Sudan and the Congo to name a few places.

  • Congregants have been involved in setting up their homes, stocking their refrigerators and doing home visits.
  • Congregants have taught them how to use the bus/metro, the banks and shop in our grocery stores.
  • Congregants have helped with job resumes, teaching English, finding employment and studying for citizenship.
  • Congregants have supplied the refugees with clothing, furniture, housewares, toys, books, bicycles to name a few.
  • Congregants created a Winter Fun program
  • Congregants took families to a museum in St. Louis which became the prototype by which the larger Jewish community will join in providing once a month.
  • Congregants wrote letters, made phone calls and rallied on behalf of immigrants.
  • Congregants continue to be involved in every aspect of this work. We are not done by any means.
  • Congregants have established relationships with the new Americans and also become a partner with IISTL.