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Shalom Group for Sponsorship of Syrian Refugees

In late 2015, Or Haneshamah joined Ottawa congregations Adath Shalom and Kehillat Beth Israel 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.

March 2018 Update

Some encouraging news – finally.

It has been over a year since the Shalom Group submitted its sponsorship application to the Government of Canada. We finally have some positive news to report, even though it remains tentative until it’s confirmed through official channels.

The winter was hard for Shadi, Esmaa and their three children. Work has been very difficult for Shadi to get, the security situation in Lebanon deteriorated through the fall, and Esmaa learned in early winter that one of her brothers (a young man in his early thirties, and still living in Syria) was killed. Their future looked very bleak and they began to lose heart about ever having a chance to start again.

In early February, Shadi finally heard from Canadian visa officers in Beirut. Suddenly, things began to move quickly. Shadi, his wife Esmaa, and their three children were interviewed by Canadian government officials in Beirut on February 28. They went for their medical exams on March 5. The next hurdle is security checks and we understand that this can take several months. These signs are encouraging although we still have no official news.

If Shadi and his family are approved, the organization of their paperwork to leave Lebanon and their air transport are in the hands of another organization, the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Because this process can take anywhere between 2 weeks and 12 months, we are now beginning planning for their arrival in the hopes that they are able to arrive quickly to be reunited with their Ottawa-based family (who were settled here nearly two years ago thanks to the sponsorship of Temple Israel).

Next Steps

We are in the unique situation of having family to help plan for the arrival to Ottawa. Shadi’s sister Fidaa has become quite fluent in English and will probably be our most regular interpreter when they arrive, she’s already sending long texts in English to us when she hears from Shadi. Shadi’s brother-in-law Ziad has been working for some time for a painting company and will be Shadi’s most important contact to the Syrian community and eventually to employment (although both men dream of going into business together once Shadi is settled and has acquired some English).

Coordinating Group members will be meeting with team leaders Wednesday evening, March 21 to discuss the responsibilities for each team. Following this meeting and depending on whether we have any more news about timelines and scheduling, we would expect team leaders to be in touch with their volunteers so they can begin to do some more detailed planning.

If you have already signed up to help, you will get a message from one of the team leaders. If you have not had a chance to volunteer and are interested, please contact Ira expressing your interest and the type of tasks you could assist with.

Donations are still welcome. Remember a tax receipt will be issued by JFS for donations of $18 or more. You can donate by credit card or cheque by mailing to: Andrea Gardner, c/o Jewish Family Services of Ottawa, 2255 Carling Ave, Suite 300, Ottawa, ON, K2B 7Z5. Please make cheques payable to Jewish Family Services of Ottawa and ensure that you write "Assist Syrian Refugees + The Shalom Group" on the memo line.

Depending on the news, this Passover may be the start of a very real journey from bondage to freedom for Doha, Tuqa, Oday, and their parents.

We wish you all a very happy and joyful Passover.


The members of your coordinating group

Adath Shalom: Ira Greenblatt at, Susan Landau-Chark at

Kehillat Beth Israel: Barbara Levine at, Larry Lithwick at, Chris Gregory

Or Haneshamah: Paula Speevak at, Patti Lenard at

March 11, 2018

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:

Patti Lenard

Sun, May 27 2018 13 Sivan 5778