“Dynamic Sacred Community Grounded in Reform Judaism”
The upsurge of COVID in our area has caused Or Ami to return to virtual operations at the time of this writing, but this doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy!
Especially our Social Action Committee, headed by Marilyn Breslow, who, with a cadre of members, are helping to resettle a family of nine from Afghanistan.
They escaped Kabul during the chaotic evacuation in August, leaving behind loved ones and all they once knew. Their journey took them through Qatar, Germany, and finally to Fort Pickett for three months. They resided in an Extended Stay hotel for a month when IRC introduced us.
We were thrilled to meet them and embark on their resettlement.
- Task #1 was finding a house, not easy with no one employed, no assets, and no credit history. Most realtors are accustomed to families of 4 or 5. Ours has six adults and three little ones. We reassured the rental agent that they would be working soon.
Resettlement money was available to cover the first four months’ rent, and they understood how to maintain an American residence. One of our team was willing to be a guarantor, so there was the assurance the rent would be paid if something went awry.
Our joint application was accepted – now we must arrange utilities and get the furniture together so they can move in.
- Task # 2 – Furnishings for the home. We have very generous partners, which means very little cash was spent. Beds, dressers, a dining room table, and many chairs were donated by Andy Thornton and Sarah Paxton, co-owners of La Diff; congregants set aside what they could pass along, social media asks generated baby supplies, and requests to other vendors resulted in donated bed frames, scratch and dents, and cash donations.
- Task #3 – Medical/dental needs. One of the men in our family had a toothache. A dentist did an emergency evaluation (at a deep discount) and referred him to an endodontist.
Fortunately, all refugees qualify for Medicaid, and, as of July 2021, adult dental care is now covered by Medicaid. Root canals are covered; alas, retreatment for inflammation after a root canal was not. VCU Dentistry will treat him at a discount of $495.50. Money was donated to cover this cost.
- Task #4 – Drivers licenses. Luckily the bus is only a mile away from the soon-to-be-rented house, but a car would open many job opportunities.
The men in our family drove in Afghanistan and brought their documentation with them. They have studied to take the VA DMV test but cannot apply until they have a permanent address.
The next step is to determine if DMV will accept their driving documents. If not, there will be a three-month learner’s permit period.
- Task #5 – Employment. The men have a work history and speak English. The women do not and have little English. We will seek jobs that require little English for the women to earn more income for the family and build language skills.
One of the men was a pharmacist, but he must be credentialed here. A volunteer retired pharmacist is advising him on the steps he needs to take. We hope to secure a pharmacy technician position to begin his re-entry into the field. The other man worked in facilities management – we will compile a resume and hopefully find a job that matches his skills.
- Task #6 – English. ReEstablish Richmond will train volunteers to teach the women in the family and encourage them to use their English. Workbooks are needed to structure lessons; grants are being sought to provide these to adult students and their novice instructors.
Or Ami’s resettlement team takes the family on outings, engages them in conversation, shares stories, and forms relationships. Language learning and adjusting to life in the U.S. is a journey we take together.
Or Ami and our Afghan family we are working with are in the beginning stages of resettlement. We are happy to share this experience with other congregations embarking on this effort. So far, it’s been a very positive involvement, and we would love to engage new partners.
Along with virtual services, Torah study, and religious school programs, our virtual Book Club continues to meet with the following scheduled for Feb. 7, “Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR,” by Lisa Napoli. March 7 brings Gateway to the Moon by Mary Morris, and April 4, we will discuss Aleppo Codex by Matti Friedman.
Virtual Shabbat Services
Please join our lively and fun virtual meetings. You may contact office@Or-Ami.com for links to these events.
Virtual Shabbat Services are held online Friday evenings from 7:30 to 8:30. Torah Study is on Saturdays, from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. in Zoom format.
For more information on any of our programs or to obtain links to zoom events, please contact our office at (804) 272-0017 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
All inquiries are always welcome.