Welcoming Immigrants

Welcoming the Stranger: Our Commitment to Immigrants & Refugees

Congregation Shaare Emeth is honored to participate in two separate efforts to support and welcome Afghan refugees to St. Louis. One effort is through the International Institute of St. Louis and the other is in partnership with Parkway United Church of Christ (PUCC) and Turkish American Society of Missouri (TASOM).

The sponsorship with the International Institute is called “Community Support Group.

The sponsorship with our interfaith partners is called Intertwine Interfaith Welcome Circle (IIWC).

Living Our Jewish Values with Two Afghan Families

For a year and a half, more than twenty volunteers from Shaare Emeth have been involved with welcoming and settling two Afghan Families, The Ebrahimis and The Hashimis.

The commandment to welcome the stranger is repeated more than 36 times in the Torah as a reminder of how important this mitzvah is to our lives.

Betsy Cytron wrote, “Through our experiences with the Hashimis, I learned that this is not just a one-way act of charity: watching the Hashimis thrive in their new environment was a source of great joy and strength for me.”

Janice and Gary Sherman chose to volunteer because, “By welcoming the stranger we are paying it forward for the help that our grandparents received when they immigrated to the US in the early 1900’s.”

The group working with the Ebrahimi family feel they have received more than they have given.

Read about both families below. If you would like to be involved, The Ebrahimi family needs babysitters and drivers. Please email David and Carole Lander for more information.

The Ebrahimi Family

On December 21, 2021, our committee of twelve people was excited to meet for the first time at the home of the Ebrahimi family. “The family” includes Toorson, the mom (age 29), Shuja, the dad (age 35), Edris, the new two-month-old baby, Ferazon, the only girl who was two years old, Elias who was 4 and Elhan who was five. No one spoke English. Luckily, an interpreter from the International Institute was present. We communicated with Shuja through an app on his phone which translated between Dari and English. They arrived in the United States because Shuja had worked with the US Army in Afghanistan and had to leave as soon as the Taliban took over.

During our first months we helped by setting up their household with furniture and organization. We purchased groceries and helped make dental and medical appointments. We provided rides, babysat and helped with sewing and cooking. All six members of the family had considerable medical and dental needs.

Shuja passed his Missouri written and driving test and obtained a good job. He badly needed a car, and an Army officer with whom Shuja had worked with in Afghanistan who lived in St. Louis helped raise funds for a car for Shuja, and our group added funds.

Currently, we are providing transportation and babysitting when Toorson, the mother goes to ESOL school four mornings a week in Parkway. One major goal we have is to help Toorson learn English. 

Our committee is ably chaired by Marti Zuckerman with experience and wisdom from Stan Shanker.

Thank you to our Congregation Shaare Emeth volunteers: Stephanie Battaglia, Michele Bernstein, Amy Cohen, Jan Fishman, Dan Heymann, Carole Lander, David Lander, Marcene Menendez, Sue Picus, Anna Poger, Sharon Remis, Andy Shanker, Stanford Shanker, and Marti Zuckerman; Chair.

The Hashimi Family

Congregation Shaare Emeth, Parkway United Church of Christ, and The Turkish American Society of Missouri joined together to become a Welcome Circle under the auspices of HIAS to assist in the relocation of an Afghan family.

The Hashimi family-Dad Jamshid, Mom-ArZoo and their four children, Yosouf, Younos, Anisa, and Sana arrived in St. Louis on February 14, 2022. Our IIWC (Intertwine Interfaith Welcome Circle) committee had been preparing for several months for their arrival. We created spreadsheets and divided up responsibilities into smaller groups to find housing, school enrollment, ESOL classes, employment etc. When we met them, the emotional impact overtook all our planning. What a lovely family! Only ArZoo spoke English, but the children all communicated very clearly without words!

Along with getting to know each other, the following months were filled with adjustments for the family and lots of work and coordination for the committee. Once we found a nice apartment for them, the kids were enrolled in school and Jamshid and ArZoo enrolled in ESOL classes. The first few months were filled with a lot of driving by our Circle until Jamshid got his Missouri Driver’s License. As women were not allowed to drive in Afghanistan, ArZoo was given driver’s lessons and she finally got her Missouri Driver’s License.

In addition to assistance learning to navigate the school system and grocery stores, apartments, committee members helped them navigate doctor’s appointments, several government programs, private organizations that provide food and other essentials, and fun excursions like playing soccer and visiting the zoo.

Over the course of the year, the Hashimis bought used cars, started jobs and learned a lot about their new life. Early in 2023, the Hashimis made the decision to move to Yuma City, CA where they have relatives and there is a large Afghan community. As they leave St. Louis 13 months after their arrival, both parents have work experience and speak better English, the children are well adjusted and speak English a mile a minute. They will always have a warm place in all of our hearts, and we wish them well as they continue their lives in the United States. L’hitraot: See You later Hashimi Family.

Congregation Shaare Emeth Members of the IIWC: Betsy Cytron, Vera Emmons, Jay Goldstein, Julia Mendelow, Stan Shanker, Gary Sherman, Janice Sherman, Jane Thal, Debbie Bram; Staff

Winter Weather: January 14, 2024

Religious School Canceled

Due to the predicted weather forecast for Sunday, January 14, all Sunday Religious School programming has been canceled. We appreciate your understanding and support. The temple offices and our religious school will reopen on Tuesday, after the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday.