Our Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis
OUR FIRST FAMILY HAS ARRIVED!
“Welcome everyone – with joy” ~ Pirke Avot
Eighteen months ago, a call to our community was put out to love the stranger, and help with the Syrian crisis. It was answered by a deep resolve to help.
After much planning, endless acts of generosity, and great anticipation, the first of our two privately sponsored families has arrived! Maha and Hessen and their three beautiful children, Haydar, Jotris, and Shanna, landed in Vancouver on Friday, March 17th, 2017. Despite over 72 hours of travel via Istanbul and Toronto, the Moustafa family radiated beautiful smiles. Welcomed at YVR by Hessen’s sister Heyat and a small group from Temple Sholom, there were plenty of heartfelt tears of joy and hugs. The family is getting settled in a fully furnished apartment. Most importantly, their journey of a thousand steps has led to a new life in Canada.
CALL TO VOLUNTEERS!
Months ago, many members signed up to help out as volunteers to this project. Now that we’re entering the resettlement phase of the project, we need to reconnect with you. The link below includes a list of activities. Please signup to those activities of interest.
We’re also seeking support from people with experience in the following two areas:
1. Administrative or executive assistance. Anyone who can help with office coordination is needed.
2. Project Management. If you have or would like to gain experience in PM by working with Volunteer Coordinator Shawn Hawkins, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for this Mitzvah.
Temple Sholom has received a written correspondence from the Government of Canada confirming their commitment to upholding our humanitarian tradition to resettle refugees and offer protection to those in need. “For all privately sponsored Syrian applications submitted up to March 31, 2016, every effort will be made to finalize their processing by the end of 2016 or early 2017.”
In this regard we are hoping that Temple Sholom’s 2 families ( a total of 8 people) will be arriving early in 2017. To offset the travel costs please consider donating Aeroplan Miles for the Syrian Refugee Resettlement Project. We have set up an Aeroplan account for donations of Aeroplan Miles to help offset the travel costs.
Donors please go to this link: https://beyondmiles.aeroplan.com/eng/charities
Click on participating charities on left side menu.
In search bar, write: “Syrian Refugee Transport to Canada”.
Click on the Syrian Refugee Transport to Canada box.
Click on Donate now. It will ask for your Aeroplan number and password.
Call to Action – Temple Sholom Refugee Sponsorship
Dear Refugee Sponsors and Volunteers,
We need your assistance on what is truly a life and death matter.
One year ago, Temple Sholom raised the funds necessary to fulfill our duty of sponsorship to two Syrian Kurdish Refugee families. As you will recall, one of our sponsored families is comprised of two parents, and three children. The other is a young couple, expecting their first baby to arrive in February 2017. We very much hope for this baby to be born in Canada.
We have been ready for many months to support these families’ resettlement in the lower mainland. They are now waiting in Northern Iraq, as the situation deteriorates.
It has been a year since Temple Sholom raised the funds and made the commitment to privately sponsor these 2 refugee families. It is time for us to follow up on our efforts.
Ask your member of parliament and the six British Columbia Senators to do more in expediting the process of resettlement. The contact information for Senators and the various MPs are attached below as well as sample letters.
Thank you in advance for your help in lobbying our government to action. We hope to rouse the needed attention to get these families here.
Rabbi Dan Moskovitz, Senior Rabbi Temple Sholom
Brenda Karp, Chair Temple Sholom Refugee Committee
Va’ahavtem et ha-ger ~ Love the Stranger
Dear Refugee Resettlement Project Supporters,
Our guest speaker for the evening was Nissy Arif, an active member of the Vancouver Kurdish community. Nissy began her talk by expressing her gratitude to our Temple Sholom community for opening our hearts to these families in need. She then offered a condensed history lesson on the Kurdish people:
Kurds are indigenous to the Mesopotamian Plains. There are now between 25-35 million Kurds living in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, countries that Kurds refer to as North, West, South, and East Kurdistan. United by race, culture and language, Kurds are the fourth largest ethnic group in the Middle East, and the largest ethnic group at 40-plus million people, in the world without a country of their own. There are Muslim Kurds, Christian Kurds, Jewish Kurds, Zoroastrian Kurds, Yazidis, and non-practising Kurds. The Kurdish people speak dialects distinct to their regions.
The Kurds have suffered horrific discrimination in the Middle East. Nissy described campaigns of intimidation and genocide against her people. She shared her personal trajectory, how in 1988, she was a baby living with her family in a refugee camp in Iran. In 1990, her family crossed the water into Greece, where they were divided and housed separately – in prisons. Nissy, a toddler, was brought to an orphanage for a period of months, long enough that she didn’t recognize her father when he was finally able to collect her. Nissy’s family was one of the lucky ones; they were all eventually released from the Greek prisons, whereupon her dad struggled to eek out an illegal living – partially through the kindness of local Greeks. In 1995, the family was accepted to Canada; they arrived when Nissy was seven years old.
This presentation personalized the refugee experience as no news article possibly could, and we’re grateful to Nissy for sharing so generously. Nissy urged our community to recognize the Kurdish people as survivors, not victims. Her own story is ultimately happy; her family has thrived in Canada. There are currently approximately 2000 Kurds living in Vancouver. The situation for Kurds who remain back in the Middle East, however, especially in Syria, is very dangerous.
Following Nissy’s presentation, Rabbi Moskovitz pointed to the unmistakable parallels between the experience of the Kurdish and the Jewish people. Then, and again since, he has reminded us of the humanitarian imperative in this project:
“Just because the US presidential election and whatever sensationalized cultural crisis dominate the news cycle doesn’t mean the war, its carnage and the very human toll measured in bodies being washed up on the beaches of Greece and Turkey has disappeared. It has not, all that has disappeared is our attention to the crisis. Let us not allow our humanity and responsibility to Love The Stranger disappear with it.”
A musical performance rounded out the evening; Adel Othman played a seven-string Kurdish tanbur instrument accompanied by Muhammet Ferho on vocals. Hands joined as we united in traditional Kurdish dance. We cemented this new friendship with Kurdish refreshments and many treats provided by our wonderful Sisterhood.
Kudos and thanks to Sheldon and Fran Cole for organizing this memorable evening.
Our project to support two refugee families remains in the “pre-arrival” stage, a limbo stage lasting longer than many of us anticipated. Our refugee families – who successfully passed rigorous UN security checks and now await medical screenings and cultural orientations – could arrive within the next six months. It’s quite possible that we’ll have scant notice of our families’ arrival(s), possibly as little as 48 hours.
We continue to seek housing rentals for our sponsored families, a one-or-two bedroom suite for the sponsored couple, ideally near Metrotown where their relatives reside. As well, there is a need for a two-or-three bedroom for the family with three children, preferably near Grandview Highway, where their family resides. We encourage you to spread the word and post your own “Call for Housing” on your Facebook page (or other social media platforms).
As we continue to organize around the arrival of our sponsored families, we look forward to extending many more expressions of “Bi xêr hatin” (“welcome” in Kurdish) to the Kurdish community.
Those of you who didn’t attend our May 17th event in person may still enjoy the video and accompanying photos: www.templesholom.ca/photogallery/refugee-event
Please continue to stay tuned for updates.
“The day you were born was the day God decided the universe could no longer exist without you.”
– Rebbe Nachman of Breslev zy’a
A new bright light has come into the world! Our sponsored family with children has just gotten bigger with the wonderful addition of a beautiful baby girl. Her arrival is an important reminder that supporting the resettlement work must press on, to bring hope to the future.
DONATE YOUR AEROPLAN MILES
Temple Sholom is asking you to donate Aeroplan Miles for the Syrian Refugee Resettlement Project. By donating your Aeroplan Miles, you are helping to safely transport our sponsored families, reducing the funds we spend on air travel and allowing us to allocate dollars where most needed. To date, we have amassed over 26,000 points. Consider donating 1,000 points, which pooled together will have a HUGE impact.
Donors please go to this link:
Click on participating charities on left side menu
In search bar, write: “Syrian Refugee Transport to Canada”
Click on the Syrian Refugee Transport to Canada box
Click on Donate now
It will ask for your Aeroplan number and password
CALL FOR HOUSING
Congregational support for the Refugee Resettlement effort has been generous and enthusiastic – thank you! Here’s an update on the sponsorship progress and an important request for housing.
Our applications to sponsor both families have received the first of several required approvals – that of the Centralized Processing Office in Winnipeg. The documents have been sent on to Amman, Jordan, and the next step is for the families to pass security review and obtain positive disposition. All family members will need to pass background checks, security checks, document checks, health checks, and visa issuance – all of which will likely take months.
Despite the drawn-out timeline, there’s a strong possibility that we’ll receive word that the families are due to arrive in Canada on very short notice. We therefore anticipate the need to have short term accommodation lined up for them – anything from a couple of spare bedrooms for several nights, to a furnished suite for a couple of months – as well as long-term accommodation. Our sponsorship commitment includes provision of housing to both families for the first year of resettlement.
Please help us to identify temporary and permanent housing (a home, apartment or basement suite; either with reduced rent or donated outright), preferably in proximity to the following:
a. Public transportation
The particular needs of each family are as follows:
Family #1 is comprised of two parents, two young boys, and a baby (due in May!). Three bedrooms would be ideal. The family has relatives living near the Renfrew Collingwood neighbourhood, so while ANY location in Greater Vancouver in proximity to public transit will serve their needs, that neighbourhood is ideal.
Family #2 is a young couple. A 1-2 bedroom home will accommodate them nicely. They have relatives living near Metrotown, so while ANY location in Greater Vancouver in proximity to public transit will serve their needs, that neighbourhood is ideal for this couple.
(Should we receive a donation of housing, then proximity to public transportation becomes less of a priority).
If you know of accommodation that meets these criteria and/or if you’re interested in contributing housing for the benefit of one of our sponsored families, please contact Rochelle Garfinkel at email@example.com.
Thank you for your continued support!
Temple Sholom Refugee Resettlement Committee
Temple Sholom is fundraising a minimum total of $80K to support Syrian refugee families for a minimum of one year. Click here to make a donation or call 604.266.7190.
Town Hall & Moving Forward
We are proud to announce that Temple Sholom has begun the first steps in the process of privately sponsoring refugee families. The response for this social action and humanitarian initiative from the congregants, Lower Mainland synagogues and other stakeholders has been nothing short of astounding. In an unprecedented move, the Anglican Diocese is partnering with Temple Sholom and allowing us to share their critical Sponsorship Agreement Holder status they have with Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
On December 1, 2015, a Town Hall Meeting was held where the committee announced that two families were identified. While the Canadian government has indicated Canada will be welcoming 25,000 refugees, these applicants have been in a state of processing and queuing for several years. We are at the beginning of a very thorough and rigorous process with our matched families that can take up to 24 months.
As we get closer to the time of our families’ arrivals, we will be requesting volunteers to help with all necessary preparation to set up their home, welcoming and adapting to Canada with continued support. One of the top priorities is housing. If there are individuals who are interested in providing housing for our families, we’d like to speak with you. As this work continues, Temple Sholom is fundraising a minimum total of $80K to support these families for a minimum of one year. Pledges can be made on the Temple website or by calling 604.266.7190.
The Syrian Refugee Committee, which is comprised of Chair – Brenda Karp, Rena Cohen, Kjell Rubenson, Richard Kurland, Sheldon Cole, Tami Gabay and Risa Levine, has been working closely with Rabbi Moskovitz and Rochelle Garfinkel. If you have questions or suggestions regarding this effort please contact Rabbi Moskovitz or the members of the committee to share your thoughts and feedback.
Below are also a couple of links to lovely stories about the first arrivals, demonstrating the whole country like Temple Sholom rallying around the Syrian community.
http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/1.689884 (Sponsor a Refugee: For Canadian Jews ‘It’s the human thing to do’)
http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2679132254 (Starts at :38 minutes)
• What happens when Syrian refugees arrive in Vancouver
Sponsoring a Refugee – Information Sheet
Becoming a Sponsor: Temple Sholom is working closely with the Reverend Michael McGee, Rector of St. Christopher’s, West Vancouver and chair of the Refugee Unit of the Anglican Diocese. The Diocese Refugee Unit (DRU) is the primary group that manages the Diocese’s status as a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). On November 4, 2015, the Diocesan Council considered a motion to “go off pattern” and have the Diocese enter into partnerships with other groups to sponsor refugees.
Rev. John Marsh serves the Anglican Diocese and has been a wonderful resource for the working group.
MOSAIC is a multilingual non-profit organization dedicated to addressing issues that affect immigrants and refugees in the course of their settlement and integration into Canadian society. We will be working closely with Mustafa Ahmad, a settlement worker with Mosaic. He has been assigned to our case for the duration of the settlement.
Questions and Answers
Q. What are the responsibilities of the SAH, the CG and CIC?
A. The Diocese, as the SAH, is obligated to ensure that the sponsorship applications meet the criteria for refugee settlement. The principal applicant must meet the refugee eligibility criteria and the CG’s settlement plan must be viable and sustainable in terms of financial and resource capacities. A member of the Diocese Refugee Unit (DRU) will meet with the CG to explain the program and provide assistance in submitting the application to CIC. The DRU will monitor the settlement process from the perspectives of the refugee, the CG and the diocese.
The CG -Temple Sholom – will ensure that it (we) possesses the
capacity to meet its settlement obligations for the duration of the plan, which typically is 12 months. The settlement plan is meant to meet the immediate financial and emotional needs of the refugee in such a way that it empowers the refugee to become self- supporting. The sponsoring group should provide not only the finances but also the education and skills that will ensure independence.
Settlement obligations include, but are not limited to:
- Meeting the refugees at the airport
- Arranging and providing short term and long term suitable
- Food (financial assistance, meal planning, where to shop)
- Setting up the home (furniture, food staples, school supplies, computer, etc.).
- Arranging internet & phone
- Orientation to new community and settlement services
- Arranging health care (vision, physical, dental
- Language and job skill training as needed
Q. What is a refugee?
A. Following the Second World War, the UN was instrumental in establishing human rights declarations and international laws to protect the rights of refugees. A refugee, as defined in the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees is a person who, “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country or return there because there is a fear of persecution…”
Refugees are not economic migrants. Refugees are not immigrants who voluntarily relocate to another country. Refugees are asylum seekers who are persecuted in their home country and often their lives are at risk. Refugees flee their home country because they are in need of international protection. CIC recognizes its obligations to assist these persons through Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), a Canadian law enacted in Parliament on October 31 2001. The Act recognizes that in the first instance the refugee program is about saving lives and offering protection to persons who are displaced and persecuted. The Act’s objectives are to fulfill Canada’s international legal obligations with respect to refugees and to provide assistance to those in need of resettlement.
Q. Is Canada at risk of letting in terrorists as it relaxes its policies and rushes to let in Syrians?
A. CIC has temporarily modified its requirements for Syrians to establish through organizations like the UNHCR that they are refugees. Canada recognizes that the extent of the civil war in Syrian means that people fleeing that country are generally refugees. While refugees from Iraq and Syria do not need to prove their refugee status, their admissibility to Canada is not a given and therefore every refugee claimant must be interviewed by a Visa Post Officer. All refugees must still pass security, criminal, and medical screening in order to be admitted into Canada as permanent residents.
Q. What does it mean that the Diocese is a Sponsorship Agreement Holder?
A. In the late 1970s, Canadians opened their borders and their homes to Vietnamese refugees. Temple Sholom sponsored a
Vietnamese family at that time. The federal government recognized at that time that faith organizations were able to mobilize effectively to raise the funds and provide the human resources necessary to assist refugees with their settlement into Canadian life and society. In order to augment the capacity of Citizenship and Immigration Canada to assist refugees, CIC established the Private Sponsorship of Refugees program (PSR) by entering into agreements with faith organizations across Canada. Many Canadian Dioceses, became Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs) in the 1980s. This means that in addition to the number of refugees assisted by CIC, more refugees can be settled by the partnership between CIC and SAHs. Today there are 82 SAHs across Canada.
Q. How can I help?
A. Temple Sholom Board of Trustees has approved a Syrian Refugee Sponsorship Fund that will be used to provide the financial resources to help with the settlement the families. We are also collecting names in support of the Syrian Refugee Sponsorship – you may make your tzedakkah pledge or register to be involved online at http://goo.gl/forms/gdMqiBrdUw. Or call the Temple office at 604 266 7190.
Thank you so much for your support of this initiative.
Brenda Karp, Chair
Abbreviated terms in brief:
CIC – Citizenship and Immigration Canada
CG – Constituent Groups
CS – Community Sponsor
GARs – Government Assisted Refugees
DRU – Diocese Refugee Unit
MOU – Memorandum of Understanding
PSR – Private Sponsorship of Refugees
SAH – Sponsorship Agreement Holders