In North Carolina, Local Advocacy Trainings Boost Action for Refugees

By Gabe Cahn,

As the United States’ life-saving refugee program continues to slow down—with just over 12,000 refugees welcomed to this country more than seven months into a fiscal year in which 45,000 refugees should be able to find welcome—communities across the country are standing up and speaking out.

Through public demonstrations, direct assistance and urgent advocacy, Americans from Westchester County to Los Angeles, to Washington, D.C., are making the case for resettling refugees at a level that is both proportionate to the global crisis and in line with the United States’ capacity, history and values.

This week in North Carolina, dozens of interfaith advocates joined two trainings in Charlotte and Durham in order to build upon the local efforts already underway to preserve the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

The trainings, which were facilitated by HIAS, were made possible by the generous support of The Genesis Prize Foundation (GPF) and 2017 Genesis Prize Laureate Anish Kapoor.

In January, GPF and Kapoor announced grants to five prominent NGOs, including HIAS, totaling $1 million, and followed up in March with an additional $100,000 challenge grant to HIAS.

Beginning in North Carolina, HIAS is utilizing the Genesis grants to strengthen the capacity of local leaders in communities across America to advocate in support of immigrants and refugees.

In Charlotte, more than 30 individuals, including Marsha Hirsch, executive director of HIAS’ local resettlement partner Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency (CRRA), and several members of her staff, gathered at Temple Beth El on Sunday, April 29, to network and deepen their skills in in advocating effectively for refugees.

“You are all already doing such incredible work to welcome refugees and immigrants,” Merrill Zack, HIAS’ Senior Director for Community Engagement, told the group. “By partnering more closely together in our collective advocacy, we have the opportunity to move the needle at a really critical juncture.”

Representatives of the Jewish Community Refugee Initiative (JCRI), the Stan Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice, Carolina Jews for Justice (CJJ) and the Refugee Congress were also in attendance.

And on Monday, April 30, in Durham, approximately 30 people came together at the Levin JCC to identify areas for cooperation in speaking out for refugees on the local, state and federal levels. Participants included members of CJJ, Judea Reform Congregation, Church World Service’s local resettlement partner CWS Durham, Beth Meyer Synagogue, and others.  

The trainings in North Carolina are the first of several which will take place in the coming weeks in other key states such as New Jersey, Ohio and Wisconsin, to cultivate the national network of activists who are working every day to promote America’s legacy of welcome.

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