The Jewish Community Refugee Initiative (JCRI) Needs You! by Amy Lefkof

How many Jewish families does it take to resettle a Kurdish refugee family from Kirkuk? TBE families have been helping the Omar household, which consists of two brothers (translators for U.S. soldiers in Iraq), their wives (one of whom just received her visa in August), three young children, and a small flock of pigeons (pets).

Their volunteer work is all part of the Jewish Community Refugee Initiative (JCRI).  JCRI educates the Jewish community about the needs of refugees and helps Jewish community members find ways to aid refugees here in Charlotte.

For the Omar family, Donna and Geoff Emerson are helping with homework and home improvement projects (and Donna handmade adorable Letterland costumes).

Peter and Linda Hindel refurbished the girls’ bedroom with comfortable twin beds, helped one brother sell his car, and are assisting another with his lengthy US citizenship application. Betsy Rosen helped coordinate furniture movers, which benefited the Omars and other refuge families.

Amy Lefkof, who has known the family the longest, has attended parent-teacher conferences, introduced the family to the LJCC, given one wife driving lessons, hosted a joint celebration of July 4th/Shabbat/Ramadan when they all fell on the same night, and shared lots of Jewish mothering tips with this young Muslim family (always lock your door, use a calendar, and save receipts!)

The Tangalos Family is helping a Syrian refugee family in similar ways.  And other TBE families have donated housewares, furniture, toys, and clothes.

There are plenty of other opportunities to help refugees in Charlotte. Through Refugee Support Services’ “Fruitful Friend” program, members of the Jewish community can be paired with a refugee family to help ease assimilation into American society.  Other ways to assist include donating Arabic-English picture dictionaries – which can be purchased at the LJCC front desk –– and volunteering through CPCC with English as a Second Language and citizenship classes.

Here’s how you can get involved:

Questions?  Contact JCRI co-chairs Penny Lipsitz or Amy Lefkof.

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