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Dor Hadash Continues its Commitment to Refugees through Community Sponsorship

Members of Congregation Dor Hadash have long been committed to welcoming and supporting refugees. This is both an expression of the congregation’s devotion to social justice and a recognition of the personal histories of many members, who came to the United States as refugees, or who are the children or grandchildren of refugees from Europe.

“Our families were refugees,” said member Eve Wider, who is one of the leaders of Dor Hadash’s work with refugees. “We want to help anybody we can to have a comfortable and safe life here.”

The congregation is proud to participate annually in the National Refugee Shabbat, a weekend celebration organized by HIAS, the national refugee resettlement agency associated with JFCS Pittsburgh. The weekend took on new significance four years ago.

On October 27, 2018, a shooter carried out the deadliest antisemitic attack in US history on Dor Hadash, New Light Congregation, and Tree of Life * Or L’Simcha Congregation, murdering 11 individuals and wounding others, after Dor Hadash participated in National Refugee Shabbat and expressed support for the refugee community.

“We are deeply affected by the shooting and the hate crimes in our community,” said member Helene Weinraub, who is another of the leaders of Dor Hadash’s refugee efforts. However, as she is herself a member of a family that arrived as refugees, Weinraub and her fellow congregants have not wavered in their commitment to welcoming refugees.

“It only made me more passionate and want to do more,” said Wider. “I don’t want fear stopping this work.”

Earlier this year, the congregation became one of several synagogues and churches working closely with Jewish Family and Community Services to resettle refugee families locally. Through a collaborative model known as Community Sponsorship, JFCS remains the official resettlement agency, and the congregation or community group takes on many tasks to support a refugee family.

In early September, following an extensive fund-raising campaign, Dor Hadash welcomed a family from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Approximately 40 members of the congregation are participating directly in resettlement activities. These have included greeting the family at the airport, arranging suitable housing, stocking the family’s home with food and other necessities, and providing rides to medical and other appointments. Members have also assisted with acquiring identification cards, registering children in school, signing up for government benefits, and taking the family to community gatherings to help them get to know their neighbors.

“We came together,” said Wider. “It’s been all hands on deck.” While 40 members are cleared to work directly with the family, more than 100 others are supporting the effort indirectly through fund-raising and other means, such as a bike fundraiser in which members rode all the way to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, to raise awareness and funding to support refugees.

“As a congregation we continue to believe strongly in tikkun olam (worldly repair) and providing safety for people,” said Wider.

For more information about Community Sponsorship with JFCS contact Alina Harbourne at 412-439-3227 or aharbourne@jfcspgh.org.


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By Susan Jablow, JFCS Grants Coordinator