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Open Hearts/Open Doors: Beth El Temple Center Refugee Response Effort

Open Hearts/Open Doors: Beth El Temple Center Refugee Response Effort

Beth El Temple Center educated themselves about how they can be helpful by reaching out to local and national organizations working with refugees. They developed a variety of ways Temple members can get involved and worked together to meet the needs of refugees and support a local refugee resettlement agency.

Community Contact Information

Beth El Temple Center

Belmont, MA
http://www.betheltemplecenter.org

Program Goals

  • Serve the needs of refugees, asylum seekers and other immigrants making a new home in the United States, specifically in the Greater Boston area.
  • Partner with one or more established refugee support organizations.
  • Find short-term opportunities to help and be open to opportunities that evolve over time
  • Determine ways the congregation can help as a community, not just as individuals
  • Offer direct contact and involvement (shared meals and personal relationships) and indirect contact/involvement (donating supplies)
  • Provide educational and advocacy opportunities about refugee issues and the global refugee crisis
  • Provide other periodic opportunities to help refugees through the activities of other groups and organizations
  • Provide resources and ideas to congregation members on what individuals can do based on skill set and profession

Partnerships

  • HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society)
  • Mercy Corps
  • RIAC (Refugee and Immigrant Assistant Center)
  • Belmont Religious Council
  • IINE (International Institute of New England)
  • Belmont World Film

Implementation

Yom Kippur 2015

Rabbi Kraus gave a sermon challenging Beth El Temple Center to take action to help refugees in light of the escalating refugee crisis

January 2016

BETC Responds to the Refugee Crisis by holding their first large congregation-wide community education and discussion event welcoming four speakers. The presentations were followed by an hour long workshop discussions about hands on service work, community educational efforts, legislative advocacy and fundraising

Benefit concern for Syrian Refugees to raise funds to support refugee relief efforts by Mercy Corps

March 2016

Passover Haggadah Supplement- a small group of congregation members wrote a Passover Haggadah Supplement for members that reflected upon the theme of refugees

April 2016

Beth El Temple Center members begin accompanying members of RIAC to the airport to greet newly arriving refugee families and driving them to their new apartments

May 2016

Beth El Temple Mitzvah Day- four projects focused on helping newly arrived refugees: (1) Welcome baskets and bags filled with kitchen and household supplies; (2) Move in bins of supplies; (3) Collection of elementary and middle school books for New American Center; (4) Campaign to sign up Temple members to receive and act on legislative action alerts

June 2016

Creation of BETC Refugee Response Fund to enable Beth El Temple Center to make grants of up to $500 to refugee families to meet urgent needs (expected draws for housing, transportation, medical needs, education). First grants dispersed for rent and transportation needs

June 2016 to date

Beth El Temple Center members began collecting and delivering furniture and household goods to recently arrived refugee families from Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Sundan.

September 2016

Launch of BETC Welcome Circles, teams of 1-3 Beth El families working closely with one refugee family. As of May 2017, we have teams working with 7 recently arrived refugee families. The families are refugees from Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq and Syria.

January 2017

Temple-wide community meeting and conversation, Beth El Temple Center Refugee Response, One Year Later.

February 2017

Co-sponsored Film Series about Global Refugee Crisis

March 2017

Benefit concert for BETC Refugee Response Fund

Retreat, Refugee Response Team

Brought refugee children to participate in Purim Fair

Held Pot Luck Supper for refugee families and congregants

April 2017

Beginning of effort to reach further across the congregation for help addressing need for affordable housing for refugee families in the Greater Boston area and engaging more members of the congregation in helping refugee families practice English.

Youngest members of the congregation and their families plant seeds in painted flowerpots for refugee families that they were assisting.

May 2017

Beth El Temple Center Mitzvah Day- four projects focused on helping newly arrived refugees: (1) Welcome baskets and bags filled with kitchen and household supplies; (2) Ramadan Baskets for the Muslim refugee families we are helping through RIAC; (3) Collection of elementary and middle school books for New American Center; (4) Birthday Party in a Bag for young children and the refugee families

Refugee Banner

                We have placed a banner in front of the Temple that quotes Emma Lazarus and says “We Welcome Refugees”

Results

  • Beth El Temple Center formed supportive relationships with seven refugee families from Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Syria
  • Provided furniture and household goods to many additional refugee families
  • Created grants for urgent needs relating to housing and transportation to a number of refugee families
  • Co-sponsored a benefit film series about the global refugee crisis and held two benefit concerts
  • Held two large community-wide education events with multiple speakers with time for significant discussion
  • Created a Passover Haggadah Supplement concerning refugee issues
  • Posted a banner in front of the Temple that quotes Emma Lazarus and says “We Welcome Refugees”
  • Participated in advocacy efforts on behalf of refugees on the state and national level