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Welcoming the Stranger, Literally

Jun 1, 2022

Refugee resettlement as a Jewish value

"The United States refugee resettlement program works like a pyramid of services. At the top the State Department contracts with nine national umbrella agencies, including HIAS [Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society], which then partner with local groups such as Jewish Family Services to perform the tangible, nitty gritty work. In a recent development, in October 2021, the Biden administration authorized emergency nationwide 'sponsor circle' programs-HIAS calls such programs Welcome Circles-to facilitate the absorption of Afghan refugees. The sponsor circle initiative allows private citizens and communities to be directly involved in refugee resettlement for the first time in decades. Sponsor circles take on responsibilities traditionally delegated by the umbrella agencies to local agencies.

'The innovation of sponsor circles is the willingness of our country in this emergency moment to trust community members to welcome the refugees,' said [Merrill] Zack [vice president of community engagement for HIAS]. 'In response, circle members are saying, 'We will rise to the occasion as American citizens and as Jews.'...

Over 100 sponsor circles have been established around the country, welcoming more than 350 Afghan individuals... In addition to completing rigorous background checks and paperwork in order to be certified, Welcome Circle members attend workshops and training on subjects such as cultural understanding, navigating boundaries and building trust as well as webinars on practical issues like budgets and finances. The goal is to lead the families to independence and employment...

'Everyone now realizes that we're living our lives together said Kaiman [a Hadassah Associate, whose maternal grandfather is a Holocaust survivor]. 'There's great meaning in sharing the journey.'"

View the print version of the Hadassah Magazine article by Rahel Musleah at:

REACT DC is proud to be partnered with Community Sponsorship Hub, as a National Sponsor Circle Umbrella Organization.


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