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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 Tikkun Olam Values (TOV) 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. See below for more information about this initiative.

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.

In-Kind Donations

Thank you for your interest in supporting Good Neighbors!

Monetary donations can be made by clicking here.

At this time we are not accepting in-kind donations for the Good Neighbors Initiative. If you are looking for a place to donate furniture and household items, we recommend one of our community partners:

  • Lutheran Social Services – Good Neighbors Refugee Resettlement
    LSS resettles refugee families throughout the D.C. metro area. Household goods can be dropped-off and furniture donations can be picked up. The pick-up location must be within 15 miles of either the Maryland resettlement office or Virginia resettlement office. LSS does not accept used beds or bed frames.
  • A Wider Circle
    A Wider Circle redistributes furniture and home goods to individuals and families transitioning out of homeless situations or to those simply living without life’s necessities. Donations can be picked-up or dropped off at their warehouse. To arrange a pick-up, complete the online form, and someone from their team will contact you within 24 - 48 hours.
  • Interfaith Works - Montgomery County
    Interfaith Works accepts a variety of clothing, home goods, baby needs, and school supplies. A full list can be found on their website. Items can be dropped off at the Interfaith Works Clothing Center in Rockville, Maryland.
To donate through Washington Hebrew Congregation

WHC hosts various collection drives throughout the year where we collect clothing, household goods, books, diapers, toiletries, and more. Due to limited space and capacity, we cannot accept all donations all of the time. For information on the current collection drive and a calendar of collections throughout the year, please visit our WHC Collects webpage.

Here is a short list of our upcoming congregation-wide drives:

  • Friendship Place – Winter Warmth: In partnership with Friendship Place and local churches, WHC hosts a one-day “Winter Warmth Store” in early December, where homeless men and women can “shop” for warm winter clothing and enjoy a hot meal.
  • MLK Day of Service Clothing Drive: WHC collects new or gently used clothing in December and January every year, in advance of MLK Day of Service.
  • Mitzvah Day Drive: Each April, WHC collects small household appliances, new or gently used clothing, toiletries, cleaning supplies, books, and nonperishable foods.


For those who were unable to join us for our two October Good Neighbors Orientations, we invite you to click here to view a PowerPoint presentation that provides some helpful background on the program and potential roles you can play in our effort.

Cultural Training

On January 22, 2018, WHC's Good Neighbors Initiative hosted a panel discussion offering cultural perspectives on welcoming a refugee family into our community. Panelists shared their perspectives on the transition to life in the United States.