HIAS Launches Volunteer Program To Respond to Arrival of Migrants in New York City

Temple Emanu-El champions initiative, honoring Jewish community’s history of protecting refugees 

NEW YORK — HIAS, the Jewish humanitarian organization that provides critical services to refugees, asylum seekers, and other forcibly displaced people in 23 countries around the world, has expanded its volunteer program for asylum seekers to meet the needs of the thousands of migrants arriving in New York City. The expansion, made possible through a grant from Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan, provides New Yorkers with the opportunity to help asylum seekers become self-sufficient and contributing members of the New York City community.

“As one of the largest synagogues in the world, and as New York’s oldest Reform Jewish congregation, Temple-Emanu-El has from its earliest days been a lifeline for immigrants working to establish themselves in this city,” said Philanthropic Fund Committee Chair Daniel Jeydel, who announced the partnership to the Temple Emanu-El congregation during Yom Kippur services. “With the arrival of more than 100,000 asylum seekers in the past year and a half straining city resources, we felt that we had to step forward in partnership with HIAS.”

“New Yorkers are looking for ways to help asylum seekers, and we are grateful to Temple Emanu-El for its leadership in making this program possible,” said HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield. “Through this grant, the congregation is making a statement that they stand behind the biblical imperative to welcome the stranger, so that together we can rise to the best of New York City’s tradition and honor the actions of those who welcomed our people to this country in the past, by doing the same for our newest neighbors who are seeking refuge in New York City today.”

Under the initiative, HIAS will vet and train a corps of volunteers to help asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants in New York City navigate challenges such as seeking affordable housing, securing employment, and filling out paperwork, while also providing mentorship, translation assistance, and help learning English. In addition, HIAS will be seeking New York City-based volunteers, including those with specialized skills, to help newcomers access medical care, financial assistance, and psychological support, and to provide translation and interpretation services, particularly in Spanish, Russian, Ukrainian, Dari, and Pashto. HIAS will also offer schools, congregations, and other community institutions around the city opportunities to prepare resource guides, conduct letter-writing campaigns, and hold donation drives to help migrants.

The program will be supported by the HIAS Avodah Service Corps Member, a young Jewish professional who will serve as a day-to-day contact for volunteers. The fellowship is part of Avodah’s Jewish Service Corps, an immersive, residential service year program for people ages 21-26 who are passionate about social justice and Jewish community engagement.

“We are thrilled that Temple Emanu-El is throwing its weight behind this program, and are equally pleased that one of our young professionals will have the transformative experience of supporting this urgently needed program,” said Avodah CEO Cheryl Cook. “We are especially excited at the possibility of the HIAS Avodah Service Corps Member working with congregations throughout New York to engage their communities in signing on to support asylum seekers in our community.”

Contact Caroline Wolinsky at caroline.wolinsky@hias.org for more information about ways to volunteer.

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