Supporting Syrian Refugees
Shalom Group for Sponsorship of Syrian Refugees
In late 2015, Or Haneshamah joined Ottawa congregations Adath Shalom and Kehillat Beth Israel Congregations to form the Shalom Group to support the sponsorship of a Syrian refugee family. The Group has now raised enough money to sponsor a family.
February 2017 Update
The Shalom Group first came together in late 2015, representing three Jewish congregations in Ottawa (Kehillat Beth Israel, Adath Shalom and Or Haneshamah) with the intention to help settle a Syrian refugee family. Although we met our financial target, the government’s resettlement process slowed to a crawl once it met its goal of settling 25,000 refugees.
However, the number of willing sponsors far-outnumbered the number of accepted refugees. The Temple Israel sponsorship group approached us to see whether we would be interested in helping to sponsor family members of the Syrian family they had already brought to Canada - to which our volunteers and donors whole-heartedly agreed.
Our current family, now living in Lebanon, consists of Shaadi (age 30), his wife Esmaa (29), and their children Doha (5), Tukah (3) and Oday (2). Shaadi is the brother of Fidda who along with her husband and children was part of the family brought in by Temple Israel. The chance to resettle with close family members is currently their only hope for a better life.
The process was administratively very burdensome. We started around the High Holiday Days. With support and encouragement from Jewish Family Services, our team included Gary Stein from ORH, Barbara Levine from KBI, Ira Greenblatt from Adath Shalom and translator Mouna Al-Shaban. They met one night a week for several weeks with Temple Israel’s family in their apartment connecting by phone with Shaadi and Esmaa in order to complete the onerous paperwork.
The forms were painstakingly completed and reviewed. New time pressures arose when the government capped the number of allowable sponsored immigrants at 1000.
By late December, we had all the forms completed, UN and birth documents translated, photos signed and information checked. The package was sent to the Government’s processing centre the day the cap was announced. We waited another few weeks with baited breath and recently learned that we have been assigned a file number! This means our family is in the queue although they still have to go through many steps before being approved. However, we remain hopeful.
The Government of Canada website tells us that the current processing time is nine months. Hopefully, they will be here before the end of 2017, and we will need the help of everyone who offered their time, energy, financial and moral support to prepare to welcome them if they are approved. We will keep you informed through each stage of the process.
Summer 2016 Update
In July, the Shalom Group was approached by Temple Israel, asking us to consider sponsoring family members of the family they sponsored last year. That family's "mother" has a brother, currently living in Lebanon with his wife and three children. After discussions with the Temple sponsorship group and Jewish Family Services, the Shalom Group coordinating committee decided to pursue this wonderful opportunity. There were lots of reasons for this decision. The committee felt that helping reunify these families represents a real mitzvah. Also, as some may know, the Temple group's family lost their little girl shortly after their arrival in Ottawa. Obviously, the families will be able to help each other through this difficult time and also in integrating into Canada.
This means the Shalom Group is no longer attempting to be "matched" with a family via the regularly circulated government list of eligible-for-sponsorship refugees (i.e., the BVOR list). Over the coming weeks and months Shalom Group volunteers will be filing appropriate paperwork and negotiating the bureaucracy. We have been told that it could be a year or more before the family actually arrives. So patience will definitely be a virtue! We will be providing more information about the family and the process moving forward in the coming weeks.
For more information or to add your name to the list of volunteers, contact: