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Interfaith Groups Welcome Afghan Refugees Through Home-Cooked Meals

As news broke of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pittsburgh was identified as one of a number of cities in the United States that would welcome a total of 53,000 evacuees nationwide. Locally, Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS) is charged with resettling refugees and helping each family make Pittsburgh their new home. Over the next eight months, JFCS is set to resettle 320 refugees.

Rabbi Ron Symons from the JCC Center for Loving Kindness, Imam Chris Caras from the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, Pastor Nick Poole from the Calvary Church, and Pastor Justin from the New Culture Church all felt a need to help the new arrivals. 

With a history of working in partnership with each other through the national Multi-Faith Neighbors Network, they reached out to JFCS offering to help prepare welcoming meals for Afghan refugees.

“We brought together Pittsburghers, neighbors from across Pittsburgh and across faiths, to say that despite our real or perceived differences, we can all work together and prepare warm and welcoming cuisine for our new Afghan neighbors.” Shared Rabbi Ron Symons.

On Sunday afternoon, October 24th, twenty-five Muslims, Jews and Evangelical Christians met and cooked welcoming meals to prepare for the arrival of 15 new families. This beautiful gathering turned strangers into neighbors and made Pittsburgh a more welcoming city. 

Zermina Sarwari and Mastoorah Fazly, JFCS support group leaders and owners of Zafaron, a local Afghan-refugee owned caterer, led the cooking of authentic Afghan Cuisine. Zermina and Mastoorah shared their experiences with the volunteers while they cut onions and stirred pots of delicious food.

As one culinary community, the group got to know each other, learned about Afghan cuisine, cooked three recipes to feed 15 Afghan families upon their arrival, shared blessings with each other, and ate dinner together.  

“We are deeply grateful that so many in our community are so warmhearted to make our new neighbors feel welcome. And what better way to make people feel welcome than to make them a home cooked meal that feels familiar to them,” shared Dr. Jordan Golin, President & CEO of JFCS. 

As the sun set over Pittsburgh, the group packed up containers and put them in the freezer. When the food is delivered to the new arrivals in the next few weeks, the group hopes the flavors bring a sense of comfort and welcome to their new lives and new homes.

Get the recipes here to try at home.

By Rebecca Remson, JFCS Director of Development & Communications