It is with full joy in our hearts and with the season of miracles upon us, we want to update you on the status of two refugee women who Temple Jeremiah has assisted. First, a little review: almost a year ago, the Social Justice Committee gathered those Temple Jeremiah congregants who were interested in partnering with the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society (HIAS) in sponsoring two refugee women from Zambia. These women, Geogette and Edwina, were coming to America without their family, having spent the past 18 years in Meheba Refugee Camp in Zambia, after fleeing with their parents, five sisters and a brother from the turmoil and chaos in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This group of interested Jeremiah congregants were divided into two groups: one to collect household items and set up a homey apartment and the other to provide direct contact and act as mentors. Several days before Geogette and Edwina were supposed to leave Zambia, President Trump issued an Executive Order banning entry for 90 days by citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Although Zambia was not a targeted country, the ladies’ travel was delayed. However, they did arrive on February 2nd and went into a well-furnished, comfortable studio apartment in West Rogers Park, set up by dedicated, hard and quick-working Temple Jeremiahans.
It has been challenging for Geogette and Edwina, to say the least. But, like many refugees and immigrants, they are resilient and have learned, among a myriad of things, how to negotiate the city’s public transportation, our money system, how money gets from their employer to their bank accounts without a physical check (electronic banking can be confusing- will the bank keep it?), how to use the elevator and escalator, where to get food they like, how to mail a letter by putting it into a blue metal box which is bolted to the pavement (Geogette asks “Where does this letter go- how does it get out of the box?”). Adjusting from a rural refugee camp in south central Africa to a big, busy city in America without family or an already-established community takes fortitude and courage, among other things.
The five of us assigned to have direct, hands-on contact continue to see the sisters once or twice a week, although planning visits is more difficult because of their work schedules. We have taken Geogette and Edwina shopping, to the Public Assistance office, to doctors and dentists, helped secure employment, interpreted documents, explained how to write checks- anything we can do to make the adjustment and transition easier. Of course, what the temple has really done is provide Geogette and Edwina with ties, commitment, and relationships, but they have missed their family desperately. Often, they were on the phone with Africa- mom, dad, sisters.
Recently, we had cause for celebration. The ladies were told that their parents and sisters were granted refugee status and were coming to America and, as we write this, their family has arrived in Utah and are housed in the same apartment complex as their sister, her husband and daughter. In the middle of December Geogette flew to Utah with a ticket she bought from her job savings and from the generous contribution of miles by one of the mentors. Edwina could not go due to her job.
The family knows that hard work lies ahead but they are happy to be in the same country together. Already, they are beginning to think and plan how they can be together in the same city, living in close proximity to each other.
Temple Jeremiah should be proud that, as a community, we have welcomed and supported “the stranger among us.” Although there are currently five mentors, there were other members of our Jeremiah community who joined the support team when time allowed. The work was successful because of the joint effort. We are so very grateful to everyone who helped the Kizabi family on their journey towards a new life in the U.S.
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- Announcing ShulCloud - May 2, 2018
- Jacob Smith’s Tikkun Olam Project - April 5, 2018
- Rabbi Rachel Heaps’ Installation - March 14, 2018
- Singing Our Sacred Roots: The American Journey of Our Reform Musical Inheritance - February 22, 2018
- An Update on the Refugee Sisters You Helped Sponsor - December 21, 2017
- Adult Hebrew Class - December 5, 2017
- Say Yes to Supporting Temple Jeremiah - November 28, 2017
- Moving from Divisions to Dialogue- A Conversation with Laurie Grauer - November 8, 2017
- Announcement from Adam Kahan - November 7, 2017