Uniting for Ukraine is the federal program, announced on April 21, through which the U.S. government will accept 100,000 people fleeing the war in Ukraine. Although those arriving through this program are not eligible for traditional resettlement, local resettlement affiliates are working to provide as much support as possible.
And so WJCI is stepping up! We are not only offering to fund, but one of our team members is an official HIAS Welcome Circle Liaison and can walk you through the process, step by step.
Through Welcome Circles, a group of 5-8 volunteers provides their new neighbors with the type of assistance usually provided by resettlement professionals for six months, often with support from their broader community. The primary role of a Welcome Circle is to help individuals and families get their feet on the ground by sharing tools and helping to navigate and guide. You are not adopting them – you are a support for a family who came as an expert on their own life and needs, helping them navigate a new country and new systems. Welcome Circles have access to the following:
Ongoing support offered through an organization called a Sponsor Circle Umbrella
A growing suite of tools (e.g., checklists, guides) to support you in your sponsorship
A Sponsor Fund to which you can apply for financial support
Forming a Welcome Circle
1. Recruit 5-8 critical Welcome Circles members: Start thinking about who in their communities might be interested in starting a Welcome Circle. Look to people who are problem solvers with specific skill sets and diverse backgrounds and availability from your community.
2. Identify roles: Sponsor Circle Coordinator, Finance & Employment Team, Housing & Basic Necessities Team, Benefits & Healthcare Team, Welcoming & Local Orientation Team, Education & Language Team,
3. Apply to become a Welcome Circle through SponsorsCircles.org. Choose Ukraine and HIAS
4. Create a work plan describing travel, housing, benefits, medical and mental health care, education & childcare, cultural connections, employment, transportation, fundraising,
5. Make sure each person completes a Background Check.
6. Ensure that at least one member of your circle completes the sponsor circle course and knowledge check.
7. Make sure every sponsor circle member signs a code of conduct agreement.
8. Access resources and ask questions on the HIAS Welcome Circles Community of Practice, an online platform designed to help you connect with additional resources and guides, as well as with other circles around the country who are going through similar processes. Click here for instructions on how to sign up and access the page.
10. Interested in forming a Welcome Circle in Westchester, Rockland County or Riverdale? Fill out this form.
Resources to Review
WJCI mobilizes congregations and individuals throughout the metro New York area with unique opportunities to support asylum seekers, refugees and other immigrants through various actions.
Highlights of Recent Projects:
Coat Drive - benefited refugees residing at Ft. Dix. WJCI teamed up with UJA-Federation of NY, Upwardly Global, Afya, Mid-Westchester JCC and the Shames JCC to mobilize the areas 52 synagogues. SEVEN truckloads of essential items were delivered to the army base in October. Hundreds of volunteers donated, sorted, and packed thousands of supplies taken directly to Joint Base McGuire–Dix–Lakehurst. WJCI also collected additional coats through a New York City synagogue effort and make-up for Afghan refugees at Fort Dix-McGuire.
JCC Mid-Westchester hosted our first official gathering for newly arrived Ukrainians in Westchester! It was a beautiful afternoon filled with heroic stories and gratitude for being here, safe in America.
High Holiday Elul Project 2021 - mobilized synagogues to hold collections, fundraise and welcome children who arrived to the United States alone. WJCI's efforts helped the Abbot House, Children's Village and Grannie's Respond.
Mitzvah Season 2021 Last year, WJCI had a kick-off mitzvah season event sharing actions with synagogues to benefit local organizations, Community Resource Center (CRC) in Mamaroneck, and Neighbors Link in Mount Kisco, organizations committed to improving the lives of Westchester's new immigrants.
WJCI strives to educate our community about the issues facing refugees, asylees and other immigrants through multiple channels including town hall, seminars and quarterly informational meetings, newsletters and action alerts.
Missed a Live Educational Event? Catch Up On Our YouTube Channel!
WJCI offers a speakers' bureau covering a wealth of refugee and asylee experiences. We can help you build support and understanding for the stranger through Refugee Shabbat powered by HIAS. With more than 80 million people worldwide who have fled their homes due to persecution and violence, we are now witnesses to one of the most significant humanitarian crises in human history. Join synagogues throughout Westchester, the country and the world for this remarkable experience and reaffirm our commitment to welcoming refugees and asylum seekers.
Refugee Shabbat, held annually in March is an educational opportunity for congregations, organizations, and individuals to learn more and reaffirm our commitment to current immigration issues in the United States and around the world and dedicate a Shabbat experience to refugees and asylum seekers. WJCI is proud to be a HIAS regional co-sponsor of Refugee Shabbat.
Images from Refugee Shabbat 2022
Highlights from Our 2022 World Refugee Day Event
Check out this video for highlights on our YouTube Channel
Mama Faye from Senegal, owner of Taaru Majeure in Larchmont, sharing stories and selling beautiful items from her store, some made by Afghan women.
Immigrants from Guatemala selling traditional food including empanadas and flautas.
Meetings with Legislators
Meetings and conferences play a crucial role in protecting refugees. WJCI members have met with legislative teams from New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand’s office, and with our local Congressional Representatives Jamaal Bowman, Mondaire Jones, and Sean Patrick Maloney to advocate for human rights and social justice for our local and national immigrant communities. These meetings are an opportunity for our members to speak out for those who do have a voice.
RIGHT TO COUNSEL
WJCI HOSTS RIGHT TO COUNSEL EVENT
WJCI hosted a unique community-wide "action" with Westchester Right to Counsel (R2C) as an introduction to the issue of the lack of right to counsel for families (low income, immigrant, people of color, etc.) who have been hit hard by the pandemic and may be facing eviction when the moratorium on evictions is lifted. It concluded with concrete steps that each community can impact our local legislators. Interested parties can share this registration link with their community:
BORDER REPORT: CHILDREN IN NEED
WJCI hosted a countywide event to educate our community about advocating and providing support to immigrant children impacted by the situation at the southern border. Speakers included Rabbi Shoshi Levin Goldberg from Temple Israel Center, Andrea Rudnick from Team Brownsville, Eddie Chavez Calderon from Arizona Jews for Justice, Bertha M. Rodriguez, Esq. from Community Resource Center (CRC), and Marti Michael from Grannies Respond/Abuelas Respondent. WJCI also heard about how to help children from the border living in our community at the Abbott House in Irvington and Children's Village in Dobbs Ferry.
IMMIGRANTS RIGHTS THROUGH A JEWISH LENS
WJCI’s December 2021, event "Immigrant Rights Through a Jewish Lens" added meaning and joy to the last night of Hanukkah as we lit the last Hanukkah candle, shared personal refugee stories, listened to Klezmer tunes from Jay Elliot, and learned from our impressive panelists Rebecca Kirzner, HIAS, Rabbi Margo Hughes-Robinson , T'ruah, Noelle Damico, The Workers Circle, Rabbi Les Bronstein, Bet Am Shalom Synagogue and Patrick Young, New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC).
WJCI advocates for policies that transform immigrants’ lives. We stand up for human rights and social justice around the major issues facing immigrants today, including citizenship, food insecurity, healthcare, housing, and employment.