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We're Sponsoring an Afghan Refugee Family

02/14/2022 01:59:49 PM

Feb14

Congregation Har HaShem is proud to support Najeb and Maryam and their children and hope you will join us.  

Najeb, who worked as a truck driver and mechanic for the US Army in Afghanistan for 8 years, fled with his family as the Taliban took over Kabul earlier this year. An Army major who worked with Najeb in Afghanistan was instrumental in bringing the family to the United States. Najeb, Maryam, and their boys came to Boulder, Colorado in late November after spending some weeks living on a US military base in Indiana where they were fully vetted by the State Department. We are so excited to have them here with us!  

Action You Can Take Now to Help:

  1. Contribute financially.
  2. Donate a cell phone. Email us at  resettlement@harhashem.org.
  3. Volunteer with the family.

 

Summer Fun

08/10/2022 01:15:48 PM

Aug10

Roxanne Bailin

Najeb completed all of his hands-on truck driving training last week and received his certificate. He will soon receive his Class A Commercial Driver’s License. The next step is participating in job fairs during which he will receive job offers. In fewer than nine months, Najeb has gone from new immigrant to a fully qualified commercial truck driver!
The family is having a wonderful summer! Volunteers are taking them swimming at the reservoir and to parks.


Maryam has finished sixteen weeks of English language classes at the JCC taught by CU teachers. The class met for three hours twice a week. She has enjoyed her time with the other Afghan women. She will now be enrolled in additional ESL classes with women from many countries.

Najeb Completes His Coursework

07/06/2022 04:01:43 PM

Jul6

Roxanne Bailin

Najeb has been attending an eighty-hour, online truck driving school in order to obtain his Class A Commercial Driver’s License.  He completed the coursework on July 1 and passed all his written tests with flying colors.  Workforce paid several thousand dollars to support his efforts to complete this required school program.  The next step is the driving test that is scheduled for July 22, 2022.  When he passes that test, he will receive his license and be reading to apply for very well-paying jobs.  The Afghan Family Team continues to be very impressed with Najeb’s motivation, perseverance, and intelligence.  Whatever he does, he does well.

Meanwhile, he has been working for Andrew Frank-Martin, Har HaShem’s Facilities Supervisor, keeping our grounds looking nice.

Najeb and Maryam’s oldest child, Amrullah, had a joyous fourth birthday on June 29.  Mat Amin and his wife Aziza, close friends from Afghanistan who live in Lafayette, and their seven children, attended the party at Najeb and Maryam’s home, as did five volunteers from the Afghan Family Team, including congregants John and Lauren Park and their daughter Ella and Roxanne Bailin.  Amrullah’s two little brothers attended as well. The usual enormous amount of delicious food was served, and we taught them how to sing “Happy Birthday” and helped Amrullah blow out the candles.

A Story of Survival and Community

06/07/2022 03:09:30 PM

Jun7

Roxanne Bailin

Survival

Najeb, 31, a longtime truck driver and logistic supervisor for the American army in Kabul, his wife, Maryam, 22, and their two toddlers were airlifted by army transport plane from the Kabul airport in the last dangerous days in Afghanistan as the American army left.  Najeb had been shot by the Taliban in the days leading up to their rescue.  After a stressful three months during which they lived in Qatar, on an army base in Germany, and on an army base in Indiana, they moved into our beautifully refurbished and furnished Baseline house next to the north building of Har HaShem on December 14, 2021. They survived and were now safe.

Building Community

Their impending arrival stirred a group of Har HaShem members to form a resettlement team and recruit volunteers.  The team organized donations of furniture, bedding, kitchen items, and clothing.  Move-in day was a joyous event with twenty volunteers, including pre-teens and teenagers, setting up the home.

Since then, volunteers have helped the family apply for and receive federal and state benefits including food stamps (EBT cards) and Medicaid.  Others have taken them to many medical and dental appointments (including prenatal visits for Maryam who had a baby in late January), obtained low-income Internet services from Xfinity, introduced them to the Islamic Center, and taken them to Middle Eastern and Central Asian grocery stores in Aurora.  Still others have come into the house on a regular, weekly basis to provide English language lessons for Najeb and Maryam and to help Najeb learn the information necessary for him to pass his written driver’s license test.  Families with young children as well as older congregants have taken the family to playgrounds.  Ten volunteers cleaned up the outside of the property so that the children can run and play.

The family survived and through them, Har HaShem has built a community of caring and support.  With our support, Najeb and Maryam have not just survived, they have thrived.  As deeply motivated and determined refugees, they have accomplished much.  Najeb has a driver’s license and drives the Subaru that a congregant donated to him.  He has passed the written tests for his commercial truck driving license and will soon begin truck driving school.  The family has applied for green cards to establish permanent residency.   On behalf of their new baby, who is a US citizen, they have applied for a passport.

Community Builds Community

Har HaShem’s Afghan Resettlement Project has spurred community involvement beyond our core of Har HaShem volunteers.   The Jewish Community Center has accepted the oldest child into their wonderful preschool at no cost to the family.

The University of Colorado, with state funds, created an ESL class taught by CU professors for nine Afghan women living in Boulder County who meet for five hours each week in donated space at the J.  Their thirteen toddlers are cared for by volunteers at the J.  Not only are they learning English, but they also have an opportunity to socialize and enjoy each other’s company.

On May 17, 2022, we organized a Zoom event at which CU Professor Jennifer Fluri provided an overview of Afghan culture, society, and religion to help us better understand and support the Afghan refugee families that have recently resettled in Boulder County.

We inspired and helped two other synagogues - Beth Amie and Bonai Shalom - to become support teams for other refugee Afghan families.

With federal, state, and county funds as well as generous contributions from our members and a URJ mini-grant, we have been able to reimburse Har HaShem for the rent revenue we have lost because of our decision to offer our Baseline house to Najeb and Maryam.

Conclusion

As part of Har HaShem’s commitment to social justice and to providing multiple ways for members of all generations to contribute and participate in a social justice project, the Afghan Resettlement Project has not only helped Najeb and Maryam survive and thrive but has also helped us build community in our congregation and in Boulder County.

The family gets a car!

04/08/2022 12:07:43 PM

Apr8

Lauren Park

Ramadan, a month of introspection and prayer for Muslims, started on April 2. During Ramadan, Nabeb and Maryam will fast from sunup to sundown. During this holy month, you may greet them by saying, "Ramadan Mubarak" which means "blessed Ramadan." The family continues to be very busy and to make tremendous progress:

  • Misha Plam, a longtime member of Har HaShem and a Russian refugee who arrived with his wife, Olga, and son, Yegor, in 1977, died in late February. His widow, Olga, donated their 2016 Subaru Forester to our Afghan family. The car was registered on March 28 and reasonable, high-quality insurance was obtained. The vehicle has only 15,000 miles on it and accommodates three car seats! Olga noted that they were refugees and that donating the car to our refugee family brought things full circle.
  • Najeb and Maryam toured the JCC pre-school and the Boulder Head Start pre-school. Their oldest child will be four this June and will be ready to attend pre-school in August.  The new baby, born in late February, is doing very well. The family members are all still going to Clinica for medical and dental visits.
  • Najeb has applied for green cards for himself, Maryam, and the two older children (the baby is a U.S. citizen!), which allows them to become permanent residents. We have an appointment to get the baby an American passport.
  • Najeb met with Workforce Boulder County and it’s likely he will be able to take a Commercial Driver's License class to become a truck driver soon.
  • The CU International English Center has designed intensive English classes especially for the Afghan men and women in our refugee families. The women do not know how to read or write in their native languages, and will be starting English at a basic level. The classes for the women are being held at the Boulder JCC in donated space with childcare available. The men’s classes are at the Mapleton YMCA in Boulder. The Boulder County Afghan Resettlement Task Force has secured grant funding from the State for the first 16 weeks of classes (4 hours per week), but it is anticipated that an additional 24 weeks of classes will be needed.
  • We plan to have a one-hour cultural orientation on Afghanistan in late April, led by Dr Jennifer Fluorian, an expert from the CU Department of Geography. All congregants will be invited to this orientation.


Current Needs for the Family

  • Female volunteers are needed to help transport Maryam and the baby to and from her English classes at the Boulder JCC on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:00 am - 12:00 pm. If you can help with transportation, please email: resettlement@harhashem.org.
  • We need a crew of people to help spruce up the yard for the family and help plant a vegetable garden this spring. We are thinking this might be a nice way to celebrate Earth Day (which is April 22). If you would like to be part of this gardening crew, please email: resettlement@harhashem.org.

Najeb Spoke at HIAS Shabbat

03/14/2022 12:06:13 PM

Mar14

Lauren Park

On March 4, 2022, Najeb, Maryam, and their three children, the Afghan family living in our Baseline house just west of Har HaShem, attended services as part of the HIAS’ National Refugee Shabbat, a Shabbat experience dedicated to raising awareness about the plight of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants. Najeb gave a moving speech about his experiences working for the American military in Kabul, Afghanistan; his harrowing story of being airlifted out of Kabul with his family; and their journey through Qatar, Germany, Washington D.C., Indiana, and finally to Boulder.  He expressed his deep gratitude for the services, including English language training, and friendship provided by the congregation.  You can watch his speech here. Or read it here.

Najeb has received his Colorado driver’s license.  He is now studying for his commercial driver’s license so that he can qualify for a truck driving job.  He drove trucks for the American Army for many years and hopes to turn that experience into a well-paying job to support his family here and in Afghanistan.

Najeb is working on getting Permanent Resident Cards (green cards) for the family, which will allow them to live permanently in the United States.

The Afghan Family Team is exploring pre-schools for the boys.  Either the JCC and HeadStart will be available for them when they are ready.  

Other Upcoming Needs for the Family
Donated phones would be helpful. Najeb's phone is from Afghanistan and very low quality. Maryam needs a phone so that when she is home alone with the children, she has a way to communicate. If you are getting ready to trade in a phone, please consider donating your old version! Email us at  resettlement@harhashem.org.

Please continue to donate funds to Najeb and Maryam and to Har HarShem on our website here.

Please also consider supporting our new Afghan neighbors by calling your members of Congress to ask them to create a clear pathway to permanent legal status for Afghan refugee families. An Afghan Adjustment Act will be critical for ensuring that Afghan refugees are able to make the United States their home for years to come.  Click here for instructions to make your call.  The HAIS website has an automatic call-in tool, a script, and instructions. Update this content.

Najeb's Story at HIAS Refugee Shabbat

03/07/2022 05:40:15 PM

Mar7

Najeb Arab

First of all, I want to say hello to all of you. Some of you know me already, and some are meeting me for the first time. 
I will tell you my and my family’s story, but first I want to introduce myself to you. My name is Najebulah Arab. I am 31 years old. I am here with my wife, Maryam, and three sons.


I studied law and graduated from Alfala University, in Jalalabad on Nangarhar Province. At the same time I was going to the university, I worked for 9 years at different jobs in an American military camp in Afghanistan. 


At first, I worked as a driver for an Afghan company which was hired directly by the US military. After that I was hired by the camp’s service operations as a supervisor. I was responsible for all 35 people who provided all the services to the camp. This included laundry services, insuring the camp had clean water, and that the dirty used water along with the garbage was transported out of the camp. At the same time, the US Army was providing supplies to other camps. At that time, I was driving for them. Additionally, I was hired by the camp to maintain the trucks used by the soldiers and locals. 


I am very proud of my job for the US military, the trust they placed in me, and the many commendations and recommendations I received as base operations supervisor. I still miss my job. As proud as I was of my job, it was also the cause of problems for my family. 


One day, some bad people called my family and threatened them. They said that I was a spy for the American troops. My father and my brothers explained I was not a spy, I was just working there. But it didn’t work. 
Time passed and one day as I was returning to my house, there were some bad people who were either waiting for me, or had followed me home. As I arrived at my door, they shot me in the chest. I still have the bullet inside me. My family took me to the hospital. When I woke up, my family told me the story.

I knew this was a problem. So I left my province and moved to Kabul, because everyone in my province knew me, and that I worked in the military camps. In Kabul, no one knew me. I thought it would be safer for me and my family. 
When the Taliban took over the country, and the country collapsed, my family and I were in great danger. 


Fortunately, I know Major Chris, because he was working at the same camp in 2014. A friend of mine contacted Major Chris, who was here in the states and told him about our situation. Major Chris contacted someone in Kabul, and he gave our name and our numbers to someone who could help us. 


Major Chris is my family’s hero, because he protected me and my family’s life. Also, I am proud of my Har HaShem congregation members. 


Sometime later, someone called us and told us to go to a certain gate at the airport. My friend and I and our families left for the airport and waited with hundreds of thousands of people outside the gate. 


We were lucky! We were called to enter the airport. They took us into a military C17 transport plane. There were about 500 people in the plane but no seats. We were flown to Qatar. Our first stop on our way to a country I could not even imagine. We spent 4 days there in a military camp. 


From Qatar, we were flown to a military camp in Germany, where we spent about two months, and then to the US. We stopped in DC on our way to Indiana. America seemed so very nice. We were treated well at the airport. In Indiana, we were again in a military camp. We were processed there, and after 2 months, we left for Boulder, Colorado. 


Why Boulder, Colorado? Because Major Chris was here. And he told our story to Lutheran Family Services and to you, Har HaShem. And because of you, I have a home for my family. I am so very thankful. I feel very good here, like I am at home. I feel safe here. Our future will be good here. I am really optimistic for my kids’ future. 


I am so happy and thankful to this congregation. You have provided all the material things we need to live here, but you have provided something more, friendship. Something we need because we left all our family and friends in Afghanistan. 
I don’t know what will happen to my friends and my family in Afghanistan.


But I do hope that I will be successful here. Then I can help my family there. They need this help very badly. There, I have 23 family members in one house, including my parents and my brothers and their families. My brothers have lost their jobs, my parents are old, and my country is suffering a great famine. Besides the 23 family members who live together, I have 5 living sisters, the sixth passed away. I worry for them too. My family is facing financial and food issues to survive. So you see, I must succeed. 


I am very thankful for the help I have received from my teachers to improve my English. This is important for me and my family’s future. My English teachers are my future, for my future life in the USA. I am thankful to all who have helped me, but some are very special, like Major Chris, who helped me get out of Afghanistan, and Elizabeth, Lauren, Roxanne, Judith, and Jim for whom I have special appreciation. 


To all of you, members of this congregation, I thank you for all your help. It has made a big difference in my and my family’s life. I am at your service. Any question you have about me or my family, you can ask any time.
 

Afghan Family Update

02/14/2022 01:56:38 PM

Feb14

Lauren Park

Afghan Family Volunteer Training
Wednesday, March 2; 7:00pm
Congregants are invited to a Zoom meeting to learn about volunteering with our Afghan family.  Har HaShem has partnered with Lutheran Family Services (LFS) to resettle the family on our campus and help them acclimate to their new lives in America. This training will focus on: 

  • How Har HaShem became involved;
  • What volunteers are already doing;
  • What help is still needed and how you can participate and get involved;
  • How to become an LFS volunteer and log your volunteer hours;
  • A discussion about Afghan culture and answering all your questions.

Please RSVP that you plan to attend the Volunteer Training at  resettlement@harhashem.org.

Other Upcoming Needs for the Family
Donated phones would be helpful. Najeb's phone is from Afghanistan and is not great and Maryam needs a phone so she is not left at home with no way to communicate. If you are getting ready to trade in a phone, please consider donating your old version! Email us at  resettlement@harhashem.org.

Just a heads up that in the next 3-6 months, we hope to find a donated vehicle for the family - something that can carry a family of 5. Please keep this in mind if you are planning on buying a new car in the future and might be willing to donate instead of trading in. And of course, if you get a lead on a used car that someone might be willing to donate, please let us know at  resettlement@harhashem.org.

A New Baby

02/01/2022 01:58:25 PM

Feb1

Lauren Park

We are thrilled to announce that Najeb and Maryam welcomed a baby boy (6 lbs 14 oz) on January 26, 2022. Both mom and baby are doing great and the whole family is settling into a new routine at home on the HHS campus. The family has applied for a birth certificate for this brand new U.S. citizen! Thank you to everyone who contributed baby items from the registry – the family has felt extremely emotional and grateful for the outpouring of support and well wishes from our community.
 
Although the family will now pause to focus on their new addition, they had been extremely busy before the baby’s arrival.
 
Najeb has obtained his driver’s license permit! He studied for his permit with his ESL tutor and passed his written test with a score of 84%! He has had several driving lessons with a HHS volunteer and is ready to take his driver’s test. As a driver for the Army in Afghanistan, Najeb has excellent skills, but as he put it, “There are no traffic lights in Afghanistan!” This is the first step towards eventually obtaining a commercial driver’s license for employment.
 
With the help of the Afghan Family Resettlement Team and many HHS volunteers, during the last month, the family has also:
 

  • All attended medical and dental check-ups at Clinica Family Health.
  • Received their Social Security Cards.
  • Received Medicaid and SNAP (food stamp) benefits.
  • Received free internet services through a program for low-income households.
  • Applied for WIC (Women, Infants and Children program that provides free milk and cereals for children up to 2).
  • Received a free year’s membership for the whole family at Boulder County Recreation Centers.
  • Had several playdates with young HHS families.
  • Participated in ESL sessions several times a week in their home and signed up for virtual English classes through Intercambio.
  • Received donated bikes and helmets (Najeb now rides to the Islamic Center for prayers on Fridays and to the Safeway for groceries).
  • Gone on a field trip to Arash International Market and several other Afghan markets in Aurora to purchase halal meat and other staples.
  • Gone sledding for the first time ever at Scott Carpenter Park!

 
Several HHS volunteers will soon start working with Najeb on money management and financial literacy. We have a whole team of HHS volunteers who are working on employment opportunities for Najeb. We are starting to think about pre-school in the Fall for the oldest boy. And we have many young HHS families with small children who have volunteered to be playdate, walking, and playground friends as the latest COVID wave eases and the weather warms up (we can always use more volunteer families, especially with young boys!).
 
Thank you to everyone who has volunteered to help and support this family. If you would like to get involved, please reach out to  resettlement@harhashem.org.
 
We also welcome monetary contributions to help support the family as they make a new life in the U.S. You can donate funds directly to the family for future use at their discretion. Or you can make a tax-deductible gift to Congregation Har HaShem to reimburse Har HaShem for the family's housing expenses, including rent and utilities. Go to Support Our Afghan Family for more details on both options and to make a monetary gift.

Volunteer Stories

01/10/2022 02:03:50 PM

Jan10

Lauren Park

Najeb, Maryam, and their two toddlers moved into a home on our property in mid-December. Since that time many volunteers have helped them get settled and established in the United States. Here are a few stories related by volunteers:

“The boys are adorable. They love to greet you at the door and wave and say, “Hi!” Once you are inside, they challenge you to a soccer game or show you that they are already learning the sounds that all their zoo puzzle animals make.  On a recent trip to the playground, the boys giggled and dashed around, delighted by every slide and swing.”

“My family and I were walking down the Pearl Street Mall for the family’s first time seeing their new town’s downtown. The street cart vendor near the Courthouse (Chiri’s Momo Delights) called out “Where are you from?”  Najeb realized the man was talking to him. Najeb answered and the man shouted with joy. “I’m from Kashmir!  We’re so glad you’re here!  Welcome to the best place in America!  I was a refugee many years ago and love this place!”  He introduced himself as Sanjay, wanted to know all about Har HaShem as the family’s sponsor, thanked HHS so much for helping the family, and had the volunteer write her contract information and the HHS name. I think Najeb and family felt like celebrities! They felt so welcomed!”

“I was driving the family to a prenatal visit at Clinica Healthcare in Thornton. On the drive, Najeb had a scheduled FaceTime with his family in Kabul. His mother was on the phone along with at least five other family members. Najeb’s mother apologized for not speaking English but thanked us for helping her family settle in the U.S. Najeb’s whole family was so happy to see him and know he was okay. Maryam was laughing with them. They all seemed so relieved & happy. ”

The Afghan Family Resettlement Team has been busy!  With the help of many volunteers, during the last month, the family has:

  • Moved into our Baseline house with the help of twenty volunteers, including pre-teens and teenagers.
  • Applied for federal and state benefits available to Afghan refugees.
  • Opened savings and checking accounts at First Bank.
  • Learned how to shop for groceries.
  • Received a library card at the Boulder Public Library as well as a free Internet hotspot from the library.
  • Attended prenatal appointments.
  • Made appointments for medical and dental screenings.
  • Begun English as a Second Language sessions several times a week in their home.
  • Been welcomed at the Boulder Islamic Center for prayers.
  • Been taken a tour of the Pearl Street Mall.
  • Been accompanied to several playgrounds (Our neighbor St. Andrew Presbyterian has kindly allowed our family free access to their playground.)


The Employment Team is meeting in order to evaluate job opportunities for Najeb. It has provided him with training materials so that he can learn sufficient English, with the help of a volunteer tutor) to pass his driver’s license test and his commercial driver’s license test.  

Two volunteer coordinators have spent hours reaching out to the scores of congregants and community members who have volunteered to support the family.

We are so appreciative for the outpouring of support and good wishes from our community! Thank you all for your kindness and generosity. There is still much work to be done and three ways that you can help support this family:

  1. Maryam’s baby is due on February 5th! Consider donating a baby item from the Baby Registry for Afghan Family
  2. Make a tax-deductible gift to Har HaShem to reimburse Har HaShem for the family’s housing expenses, including rent and utilities. Or donate funds directly to the family for future use at their discretion. Go to Support Our Afghan Family for more details on both options and to make your monetary gift.
  3. We have added additional slots to the Volunteer Sign-Up. Specifically, we are looking for volunteers to work with Najeb on financial planning and budgeting. And we need postpartum help for Maryam, i.e., volunteers who are willing to cook, clean and spend time with the boys while she takes care of the baby and herself. Go to Afghan Family Volunteer Opportunities.

Afghan Family Resettlement

11/30/2021 01:54:35 PM

Nov30

Marianne Balin

I am thrilled to share some wonderful news.

The Board of Trustees of Congregation Har HaShem has offered our Baseline house to a family fleeing Afghanistan. We expect Najeb, Maryam and their children, Amrullah (3) and Naseebullah (2), to move in in mid-December. We’re partnering with Lutheran Family Services and a local effort to bring Afghan refugees to Boulder County. Below, I’ll tell you more and how you can help.

Here’s the background
Several months ago, Roxanne Bailin, Lauren Park and Elizabeth Freedman began exploring how we might offer safe harbor to an Afghan refugee family. They met U.S. Army Major Chris Liggett who was rescuing his Afghan interpreter from Afghanistan. Chris has resettled Matiullah and his family of ten in Lafayette. Learn more about Chris, Mattiulah, and their network of helpers here. 

Najeb worked with Chris and Mattiullah as a truck driver for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. He and his family have been living on a military base in Indiana where they have been fully vetted by the State Department. We understand that Najeb speaks some English. Maryam and the two children do not.

Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountain will help us with the family’s initial integration, securing Social Security numbers and some benefits. 

How you can help
It will take a community effort to settle this family in their new home. Our Brotherhood and Faith Furnishings have outfitted the Baseline house, except for some baby items. Andrew Frank-Martin, our Facilities Supervisor, is fixing things up for our new residents.

We know many of you will want to get involved. To help, review our needs below and send an email with your interest to resettlement@harhashem.org.

 

  • Orientation and Assistance
    Everything will be new to this family — from the washing machine and bus system, to self checkout and the library. We’re especially looking for families with young children who will visit the family regularly, host them for dinner in their own homes, go for walks and to the playground. We also need individuals to help them enroll in local services and programs, establish bank accounts and phone numbers, learn English and more. 
     
  • Employment
    We need a small team to help Najeb obtain a Commercial Driver’s License, receive job training, and find work opportunities. 
     
  • Financial Support
    We need your assistance with the family’s rent and living expenses until they have sufficient, stable income. Give to the Tikkun Olam Fund here and enter “resettlement” into the payment notes.
     
  • Household Items
    We are creating and will share a registry of items you can donate or purchase. We will share a link soon. 

Welcoming Najeb and his family reflects our commitment to help the stranger, builds on our history of assisting Russian and Sudanese refugees, and expresses our desire to make the world a better place. It emerges from this summer’s conversations about our houses and our shared desire to make safe choices about our campus.  

I hope you agree with me that this work goes to the core of who we are. 

May we all have much to give thanks for and, together, return abundant light to the world this season,

Marianne Balin

Mon, December 5 2022 11 Kislev 5783