Sign In Forgot Password

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.

Sat, October 1 2022 6 Tishrei 5783