Last week, our friends and partners at HIAS Chicago and JCFS were informed by the US State Department that their refugee resettlement program was being shut down, effective at the end of February 2018.

Jewish Child and Families Services and HIAS Chicago write in their statement:

“The decision to discontinue resettlement efforts was not ours. The State Department is in the process of closing and consolidating programs across the country.  The administration established an unprecedented cap of 45,000 refugees, the lowest number set since presidents have been authorized to determine limits in 1980. It is possible the actual number of arrivals will, in fact, be even lower. By comparison, over 50,000 refugees were resettled last year and nearly 85,000 the year before.   Significant decreases in arrivals mean fewer programs are needed to support resettlement.  As saddened as we are to see our program end, we are deeply concerned about those individuals and families awaiting their turns to come to the United States.   Those who have been waiting years or even decades will now need to wait even longer to find freedom.”

We were devastated to hear this news. HIAS Chicago made it possible for our refugee families, the Alhamadas and Al-Obaidis, to safely resettle in Chicago after years, even decades of waiting. While our refugee families aren’t affected by this decision, and are here as long as they choose to be, thousands of refugees will remain in limbo awaiting resettlement, even though synagogues and communities here have opened their hearts, raised funds and in-kind donations, and couldn’t wait to welcome them in.

On the eighth night of Hanukkah, I hope the candles will serve as a reminder of what our light stands for – a beacon of hope and a light of welcome, even as forces of darkness and fear of the other try to snuff out that light. I’m proud as ever of the work that our Refugee Welcome Team volunteers and this whole community have done over this past year to welcome the Alhamadas and the Al-Obaidis to this country. Tonight, I’m praying for the millions of refugees and immigrants worldwide who dream of a safer future.

Please be in touch with me if you’d like to talk more about any of this, or want to think together about ways to respond.

With love and light,

R’ Lauren