IMPACT-Refugees

Chanukah Miracles Come Early for Ethiopian Jews

Ethiopian Jews Make Aliyah 12-3-2020

Yesterday, 316 Jews lifted off from their native country of Ethiopia to arrive in their new home in Israel. The Israeli Government recently approved bringing 2,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel and this first planeload launches Operation Tzur Yisrael with another 100 arriving today. While the government approves the operation, it is the work of the Jewish Agency for Israel, one of our overseas partner agencies, that facilitates the preparation, the travel and the k’litah (absorption process into Israeli society). It is our Community Campaign that makes this possible

Just two years ago in Israel, Federation’s Chief Development Officer Brian Eglash and I were given the honor and responsibility of addressing the Aliyah Committee of the Knesset representing the Federation system encouraging the government to expedite this aliyah (immigration). I get goosebumps staring at these pictures capturing the arrival on Israeli soil. 

You make history happen by giving to and by encouraging others to support our collective efforts. I invite you to join our Federation for our first ever Virtual Super Sunday on Sunday, December 13th. You can help out right from the comfort of your home. Learn more and register to make calls at https://jewishpgh.org/event/super-sunday/.

Next Thursday night begins Chanukah, a holiday about miracles and reclaiming Jewish identity. How perfect for it to be in the same week as this airlift from Ethiopia! Take two minutes to watch a video from Ben Gurion Airport capturing the arrival yesterday and hearing from Isaac Herzog (the Chair of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel) explicitly expressing his gratitude to the Federation system.

Shabbat Shalom. Happy Chanukah. Go Steelers. And PLEASE wear your mask!

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Ethiopian Jews Make Aliyah With Your Help

Ethiopian Jews Make Aliyah 12-3-2020

Today is an exciting today for the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Just a few hours ago, 316 Ethiopian Jews made Aliyah to Israel, fulfilling their lifetime dream to return home.

Our historic international partner, the Jewish Agency, will now provide these new olim (immigrants) a home for the next year or two in absorption centers around the country where they will learn Hebrew and get acclimated to life in Israel. Your Community Campaign donations help support JAFI as they bring more than 2,000 Ethiopians to Israel in this wave of immigration, settling them in their new lives.

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Onward Israel: Wadi Hawar

Wadi HawarFor the last four weeks, I’ve been working for an organization called Wadi Hawar, a refugee advocacy organization targeted at integrating Sudanese refugees fleeing the Darfur Genocide into Israeli life, either for future residency or for them to support themselves until they are approved to move to another country. Wadi Hawar also connects refugees with legal council and other specialists they need to confront challenges and injustices they face in Israel.

Most of my time has been spent working with my boss Adam, a writer and social activist who is also a Darfuri refugee. We are working on Adam’s third book together, a novel that tells the story of a fictional Darfuri village through the eyes of a young boy names Sabur and his grandmother Argon. Our hope is that the narrative with give English-speaking readers a way to gain an understanding about a culture they have little or no exposure to. Recently, I’ve also been spending time teaching English classes, alone or with Adam.

Overall, my internship feels like an exciting blend of Social Work and English Writing experience, and I’m really happy to have found an internship that provides me with so much room for creativity and interpersonal communication across cultural lines.

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Our Impact: Svetlana Geguzina – Guardian Angel for Refugees

Svetlana Geguzina is a pillar in the legal department at Jewish Family and Children Services (JF&CS). No one takes on as much work assisting refugees to apply for legal permanent residency and has the positive results as she does.

Svetlana is an Accredited Representative and a former Refugee from the Soviet Union, providing a unique perspective on what it’s like starting life over in America. Svetlana uses this personal knowledge to counsel her clients and assist them in meeting their immigration goals. Svetlana has been an employee of JF&CS for 24 years and has been practicing immigration law for 12 years. She has helped thousands of refugees apply for green cards, hundreds of individuals petition to reunite families and countless others apply for citizenship in the United States.

“She’s a dedicated and zealous advocate for her clients and has improved so many lives in the process of her work and through her unwavering strength of character. She works on her cases with equal parts humor and intimidation. Without Svetlana’s years of time and dedication, we wouldn’t have the successful program we have today,” President and CEO of JF&CS Jordan Golin said.

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Our Impact: Alla Puchinsky – Welcoming All with Open Arms

Alla Puchinsky

Alla Puchinsky arrived in the U.S. 20 years ago as a refugee from the former Soviet Union. She was greeted and welcomed by Jewish Family and Children Services (JF&CS) and volunteers from the Jewish community — some of whom she is friends with until this day. In 2000, Alla brought her skills and high level of education (she has a Ph.D. in rhetoric) to bear as a refugee case , assisting with the resettlement of Russian-speaking refugees. With 17 years under her belt, she is the longest-serving member of our refugee department. Alla’s primary role is ensuring that new arrivals are connected to government benefits and with help navigating the medical system — two critically important roles and critical to future success in the U.S. Alla follows our most vulnerable clients through the complicated medical maze. She has been at births, deaths, major surgeries, 5 am appointments and 1 am emergencies. After one birth, a Burmese mother asked Alla what to name her newborn. Alla chose David.

Alla is is dearly loved by her colleagues and refugee clients for her huge heart, knowledge of community resources, and unmatched dedication to meet client needs. Clients from all different parts of the world refer to her with an endearing and respectful word from their language: the Burmese called her “Pi” (pronounced Pee) Alla or Grandma Alla. The Bhutanese call her Alla ma’am. We, at JF&CS, call her simply amazing.

Alla was nominated by Jordan Golin, Psy.D.President & Chief Executive Officer Jewish Family & Children’s Service.

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