Help Us Help Local Refugees
In early 2017, Nick Levitin and Andy Silver started Shomrei’s Refugee Assistance Group in reaction to the massive influx of Syrian refugees to our area. The response from our group, which consists of roughly 50 members from the Shomrei community was, and continues to be, overwhelming, enabling us to assist refugees from a wide variety of countries. However, the needs, too, are overwhelming; wars, natural disasters, and government repression and persecution continue to cause mass worldwide migrations of people, many seeking refuge in our region.
To help meet those needs, we invite those who are not yet in our group to join us.
The efforts of our group have been wide-ranging, depending on the specific needs of the families. For example, we’ve supplied: furniture, kitchen items (from dish towels to refrigerators), air conditioners, and clothing to recently arrived families; laptops and other school supplies to schoolchildren; a car donated by one of our members to a family that lost theirs in the flood caused by Hurricane Ida in 2021; and – during the height of the pandemic – food deliveries to families unable to safely leave their homes. Sometimes we’ve been able to “recycle” items from our homes, and other times we’ve had to buy new items using funds generously donated by our members.
We’ve hired some of the cooks among the refugee families to prepare meals for events ranging from a Sukkot lunch at the synagogue to private birthday and dinner parties. We’ve also hired some of the teens to help at dinners and barbecues.
We’ve provided tutoring for some of the children, sponsored summer camp experiences for others, and helped guide families through the government social service bureaucracy.
And we’ve extended our reach and resources by partnering with various non-profit community groups such as Refugee Assistance Partners (RAP) NJ, the Westfield Fun Club, One World One Love, and Laptop Upcycle.
For the most part, the people with whom we have worked are successfully assimilating to their new lives in the United States. At least two have already become U.S. citizens, many are gainfully employed, several have started college, some have obtained their driver’s licenses and library cards, and one of the second-graders – whom we first met as a preschooler – has repeatedly been a “student of the month” in her Elizabeth school.
While the successes of the families so far have been mostly the result of their determination and perseverance, we believe our group has contributed in ways large and small. However, we could be doing so much more! There are many other refugees in our area who would benefit from our assistance, if only we had additional resources. Our effectiveness has always depended on the hard work and dedication of our members, as well as on their financial contributions. To help us continue – and expand — those efforts, we invite you to join our group.
Join the Group
If you are interested in joining, or if you want more information, or would just like to be on our email list for updates about our activities, please contact one of the co-heads of our group:
Thank you to all of our current members and to all who are about to join us.
Judith, Mike, and Andy