In July 2017, I was back in the US after a year in Morocco, unemployed. I had traveled to Morocco a year earlier on a Fulbright, inspired by my love of languages and linguistics studies. Back home, things felt both familiar and unfamiliar. I learned the newly resettled Syrian families supported by TBE needed Arabic translation help and I volunteered. I did not speak the right Arabic because of varying dialects, but I could communicate. I was happy to find a window of the warmth and hospitality I felt in the communities of Morocco as I settled back into American life.
When I moved to DC (employed), I sought opportunities to volunteer. Disconnected from a temple (no TBE), I eventually discovered a “family friends” program for refugees run by a local church and was assigned to a team for a family in Maryland. Our team visits every week or so with the family, helping with things ranging from doctor’s appointments to science projects to Halloween. As one of my team members puts it, we are basically there with them to “do life in America.”
I am grateful to have the time to volunteer, to get to know the wonderful families who are now my friends, and to support them in adapting to and thriving in their new homes.
Present throughout this experience is the meaningful reminder my own grandfather was a refugee not so long ago. After escaping World War II Poland, he was a refugee in Europe for 10 years before arriving in America. Though the circumstances are different for refugees coming to the US today, the power of extending a warm welcome hasn’t changed. And in my experience, I have only received kindness and welcome in return, often in the form of Syrian desserts.