Three Ottawa congregations join together to sponsor Syrian refugee family

By Barbara Levine and Larry Lithwick
Shalom Group

Following a community-wide information meeting held at Agudath Israel on December 8, 2015, Ottawa’s three Conservative congregations – Adath Shalom, Agudath Israel and Beth Shalom (Agudath Israel and Beth Shalom will be amalgamated later this year) – have joined efforts to sponsor a Syrian refugee family and help it start a new life in Ottawa.

Like the volunteers and donors who supported an earlier sponsorship effort by Temple Israel, congregants in all three shuls were asking what they could do to help in the face of the terrible Syrian refugee crisis. The Shalom Group emerged in response to this desire to help and to show the world how it should have acted when Jewish refugees were fleeing Nazism in Europe. The name of our group stands not only for “peace,” but it also expresses the goal of the initiative to offer a warm, supportive and hospitable welcome to people who are strangers to us, because “we once were strangers in the land.”

The objective of the Shalom Group is to raise $30,000 over the next three months, which would allow us to sponsor a family of four. Operating under the umbrella of Jewish Immigrant Aid Services of Toronto and Jewish Family Services of Ottawa (JFS), we have opened an account and have begun to receive donations. JFS will issue a charitable receipt for all donations over $18.

We are also recruiting volunteers whose support is needed for everything from helping the sponsored family with budgeting and opening a Canadian bank account to finding affordable rental accommodation and collecting donated furniture.

Look for the Shalom Group table at the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s Mitzvah Day, Sunday, February 7 at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre. There will be opportunities to sign up for different volunteer activities and to write welcome notes to the arriving family.

While the tragic circumstances of the refugees have touched millions of Canadians, they resonate especially strongly with many Jewish Canadians. Many of us see elements of our own history as stateless and persecuted people reflected again in the tide of mostly Muslim refugees fleeing war and deprivation in the Middle East. The opportunity to sponsor a refugee family helps us build bridges to other communities, and with each other as members of different congregations working together for a common purpose.

To make a contribution, send a cheque (earmarked for the Shalom Group) to Jewish Family Services, 300-2255 Carling Avenue, Ottawa, ON, K2B 7Z5. You can also donate online at www.jfsottawa.com or fill out a pledge form available from all three shul offices.

To become a volunteer, or to discuss how you can become involved, contact any of the following Shalom Group representatives: Ira Greenblatt (greenblatt.dugas@gmail.com), Susan Landau-Chark (prof.sjlc@zoho.com), Barbara Levine (levine.barbara@gmail.com) or Larry Lithwick (llithwick@rogers.com).

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