27 August 2021
Many of us are watching the situation in Afghanistan with growing alarm and worry. As I write, it’s been about two weeks since Kabul fell to the Taliban. Nearly 90,000 people have been evacuated from the country, with tens of thousands still trying to leave amidst the Taliban closure of the airport. As the difficult situation continues, we mourn the loss of American service members and Afghan citizens and pray for the swift recovery of those injured in yesterday’s horrific attacks. I, like many of you, feel an overwhelming desire to help those fleeing for their safety.
As Jews, we can deeply identify with the plight of the Afghan refugees. We understand what it is like to flee a country in pursuit of freedom and to escape persecution. My own family escaped Germany in 1939, emigrating to Bolivia, the only country that would take both of my paternal grandparents. Many of us have similar stories. And while America has had a complex relationship with immigration, I believe we have a singular moral obligation to the Afghans, many of whom worked with the American government and military over the past 20 years to try to build a more democratic and just Afghanistan.
Our region is a key resettlement destination for Afghan refugees. In August alone, approximately 500 refugees from Afghanistan are being resettled in the DC area, with the potential for 500 more in September. Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSSNCA) is leading the effort to help connect them with housing, employment, transportation, food, acculturation, and other support. Synagogues, other faith groups, and nonprofits throughout the region are also mobilizing to help families who have left everything behind.
We have heard from many donors seeking to help Afghan refugees settle into life here. Federation’s United Jewish Endowment Fund (UJEF) is uniquely positioned to help passionate funders in our community engage in causes they care about—in this case, by connecting them with the unparalleled efforts of LSSNCA. To date, and thanks to these generous funders, UJEF has committed more than $375,000 to Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area to support the resettlement of refugees from Afghanistan. This funding will directly support case management and housing costs to relieve the financial stress on our new neighbors as they work towards self-sufficiency.
As we live out the value of opening our arms and hearts to the stranger, it is gratifying to be part of this larger, multifaith communal initiative. I enter Shabbat feeling proud and grateful to belong to a community of such generous and compassionate individuals. Thank you for being that community.