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Good Neighbors Initiative

“You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”  (Deuteronomy 10:19)

For most refugees, coming to the United States is the end of a long and sometimes difficult journey to reach our shores. Once they arrive, they often encounter unexpected challenges. Since our establishment, WHC has reached out to refugees and others in need to provide support and assistance and today, we are continuing this tradition.

This year, Washington Hebrew Congregation is partnering with the Lutheran Social Services (LSS) Refugee Good Neighbors Program to help a newly arrived refugee family rebuild their lives in the United States.

We will offer a comprehensive range of services and financial support to our family. Starting even before the family arrives, we will procure housing and furnish the apartment, stock the kitchen and fill the closets. When the family arrives, we will greet them at the airport, bring them to their new home, and introduce them to their new community. We will help them develop a family budget, open a bank account, and navigate life in the Washington area. And we look forward to taking them to stores, and enjoying our area’s wonderful museums, sporting events, and parks together.

The Good Neighbors Initiative gives us an opportunity to live our religious obligation to welcome the stranger by helping a newly arrived refugee family get settled in a new country.

Who Is a Refugee?

Refugees are people who have been forced to flee their homes because of armed conflict, persecution, or natural disaster. Unlike immigrants, refugees are not leaving their home countries by choice — they are leaving out of fear for their lives.

Refugee status is a legal classification which enables these individuals and families to be eligible for assistance from other countries and organizations.

We are currently facing the largest global refugee crisis since World War II. According to LSS, there are 22.5 million refugees who have fled their homes because of war, persecution, and civil unrest. Over half of these are children.

Why Help?

“When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)

In the Torah, we are commanded no fewer than 36 times to welcome the stranger. As Jews, our historic experiences of persecution give us unique insight into what it means to be a stranger in a strange land. Many of our families arrived in this country as refugees, and came to the United States in search of safety and religious freedom.

The Good Neighbors Initiative gives us an opportunity to live our religious obligation to welcome the stranger by helping a newly arrived refugee family get settled in their new country.

We Need You!

How can you help?

Make a monetary donation: You can donate to the Sylvia and Saul Ritzenberg Humanitarian Fund by clicking here.

Volunteer your time with one of our committees:

  • Welcome and Community Guide Team will start with greeting our family at the airport and bringing them to their new home. Throughout the year, this team will arrange activities designed to familiarize our family with the U.S., from baseball games to museums, from a tour of the Monuments to their local stores, from our interfaith service for MLK Day to our community seder. We envision that our core team will assist our family all year, and will be able to include those in our community who are available to join one or two activities during the year.
  • Housing and Furnishing Team will identify affordable permanent housing for our family and furnish it from top to bottom with donations from others in our community. Our goal is that when our family opens the door, they are comfortable and have all they will need for the first month! We envision that this team will work most intensively in the period before our family arrives in the U.S. 
  • Food and Clothing Team will arrange for the family’s kitchen to be fully stocked, and for clothing to be in their closets, upon their arrival — enough for their first month in the United States. Then, working with our Welcome and Community Guide Team, the Food and Clothing Team will help our family navigate the stores in the community. We envision that this team will work most intensively before the family arrives and for a period of 4-6 weeks after arrival.
  • Finance Budget and Finance Team will help our family develop a budget and assist with opening bank accounts, managing taxes, and tracking savings. This team will assist our family throughout the year as they seek to achieve financial self-sufficiency.
  • Communications Team will work with WHC’s communications staff members throughout the year to ensure that our community is aware of the opportunities to engage in this effort. 
  • Development Team will work with WHC’s development office to first, launch a fundraising campaign for the family and, second, closer to the time of the family’s arrival, to launch an in-kind donation drive (together with the Housing and Furnishing Team, and the Food and Clothing Team).

Make an in-kind donation: Once we are matched with a family, we will also begin to collect in-kind donations. More information about this initiative will be available soon.

As you can see, there is much to coordinate. Although we do not know when we will be matched with a family, or when they will arrive, it is important that we have all people and plans in place when we are notified.

Orientation Dates

We welcome all who are interested to join us at an orientation session to learn more about the opportunities to work with us as a part of the Good Neighbors Initiative. There is a role for everyone — whether you have just a few hours or would like to assist all year, whether you wish to help in the preparations, or all year long in introducing our new family to the community, and whether you are 8 or 88!

We kindly request that you RSVP on the form below so that we know how many will be attending our orientation sessions.

Orientation Dates

Sunday, October 8
9:30 am at the Julia Bindeman Suburban Center

Tuesday, October 10
7:00 pm at Temple

Good Neighbors Initiative Registration

Contact Information
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