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Welcoming Immigrants to St. Louis

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).

Community Support Group at the International Institute of St. Louis

Congregation Shaare Emeth was asked by The International Institute of St. Louis to be one of five organizations to assist in resettling Afghan refugees in St. Louis in a new support program. A core group of 12 congregants from The Advocacy and Action Immigration Committee will serve as part of IISTL’s Community Support Program. This core group will work with one family for six months to help them become independent members of our community. The group is chaired by Marti Zuckerman and each of the members of the group are in charge of a specific area of resettlement. We want to share this wonderful program with the congregation as there will be ways that each one of you can assist!

Update 11/22/2022:

The family our Congregation is helping is doing great! The older boys are in Kindergarten and First Grade at Ross Elementary. Elham (First Grade) is doing well in both class and ESOL class. He communicates well now in English, and is currently loving Spiderman and tigers. Elias (Kindergarten) was really unhappy to start his first formal schooling. Our own Stan Shanker drove him to school several days in a row when he refused to stay on the bus. After a short adjustment period, he is all smiles and happiness. His teacher reported that there is one other boy in his class that speaks Dari, and they run to each other and hug each morning. Ferozen, almost 3 years old now, is playful and happy. She loves pretend and chase and tickle games. Edris, almost one year old, is all smiles. He started crawling and moved to walking at 8 months! He is happy and playful and likes trying to sing along with music at library story time. Mom and Dad are both taking ESOL classes at Parkway’s learning center; Mom four mornings/week, Dad three evenings/week. Dad is still employed at Wright Tree Service, is driving for Amazon Flex on his off days, and is studying for his CDL license.

Our volunteers are amazing! Our core team is currently helping the family:

  • apply for Asylum and prepare for the Asylum hearing
  • schedule and get to health and dental care appointments
  • pick up food from both Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry and Parkway Schools Food Pantry
  • improve Toorsan’s (mom’s) sewing skills so she can take in work at home
  • assist the family with financial and budgeting advice
  • coordinate parents-as-teachers
  • understand mail and school communications

Update 2/22/2022:

Progress continues with our Afghan family. This week Shuja, the dad, had a root canal procedure and a follow-up visit with the oral surgeon. Now, we are helping Shuja find a job.

The Men of Shaare Emeth (MOSHE) delivered furniture and rugs that temple members donated to the family. Big thanks to the MOSHE group, and also to the generous contributions of our congregants.

Toorsan, the mom, speaks other languages, but not English. This week she had her first two tutoring sessions in English. And Toorsan was able to begin her study of English because our dedicated congregants watched her kids.

Update 1/18/2022:

Congregants have helped our Afghan family settle in important ways this past week. We helped the family start the enrollment process for their 4-year old in pre-school and their 6-year old in the Nahed Chapman New American Academy, a St. Louis Public School that serves children, Kindergarten through grade 8, who are new to the United States. Other volunteers took the entire family to doctors’ appointments. 

Last week, our family had to be relocated from their apartment to an extended stay hotel as there was a power outage in their apartment.  This week, congregants helped the family communicate with the landlord and the workers to fix the electrical problem and the furnace.  Other volunteers transported the family back and forth from the hotel to the apartment and other destinations. 

Update 1/11/2022:

Activity for our Shaare Emeth Family has slowed a bit this past week. A professional organizer visited the family to help them organize the many donations in their small apartment. But the family was not there. A power outage in their apartment required the International Institute to move the family to a hotel for a few days while repairs were being made. An appointment to enroll the two older boys (ages 6 and 4) in school had to be postponed due to the power outage. Hopefully this coming week will bring more stability to our family and the business of settling in can continue.

For questions about this initiative or to get involved, please contact the chair of our group, Marti Zuckerman at martizuckerman@gmail.com

Update 1/4/2022: Getting Settled

Moving is always a challenge, whether it is down the street or to a different city. But imagine your move was to a country where the culture, the language, and all aspects of society were completely unfamiliar to anything you had ever experienced. At minimum you would feel lost, isolated, and overwhelmed. And doing the basics to survive in a new city would be unfathomable. Finding a group of people to welcome you and support you would be a godsend, a true blessing. And one Afghan family that has recently arrived in St. Louis has found that support.

A committee of Shaare Emeth congregants is assisting the short-staffed International Institute in settling and supporting this family of six: a mom, dad, and 4 children ranging in age from one month to six years. This week members of our committee reached out to the congregation for donations the family needs. The response was immediate and generous. As some donations arrived, one member delivered them to the family. The blocks and floor puzzles were a big success!

Some congregants took the parents to House of Goods to shop for items they needed immediately. While parents shopped, two committee members baby sat. Others took family members to the doctor and are helping them find employment. Another congregant translated the MO drivers test preparation booklet, printed it, and brought it to Shuja, the dad, before going on her vacation. Another member brought school enrollment information to the family. Thank you to our Shaare Emeth family for stepping up to help this family in their time of need.

Update 12/27/2021: Our Family from the International Institute has arrived!

Our community support group has welcomed a family from Afghanistan last week: mother, father, 6-year-old son, 4-year-old son, 1-year-old daughter and a newborn son who was born on December 10. Please see the picture of the family and some of our volunteers. There are some specific needs at this time for clothing and supplies: click here. Please do not donate anything that is not on the list.

Community Support Program Group:

Marti Zuckerman, Chair; Stephanie Battaglia-Esses, Dan Heymann, Harriet Kopolow, Carol Lander,  David Lander, Marcene Menendez, Sue Picus, Anna Poger, Gary Ratkin, Sharon Remis, Andy Shanker and Stan Shanker.

Interfaith Intertwine Welcome Circle

Nearly 40,000 Afghanis are currently being housed on American Army bases. The American Army can only house these families until mid-February. Consequently, the Department of State issued a call to action to expand the United States’ capacity to welcome these families and help them begin their new lives as Americans.

Congregation Shaare Emeth (CSE), Parkway United Church of Christ (PUCC), and Turkish American Society of Missouri (TASOM) have committed to answer this call.

Our tri-faith initiative to sponsor an Afghani family is moving forward. Our family has arrived in St. Louis! Debbie Bram, Cindy Nouri and Jackie Effert greeted the family of six at the airport in late February.

For more information of how you can assist, please email Debbie Bram.

Your Interfaith Intertwine Team: Kevin Cameron, Lisa Mason, Paige Penico, Ali Durhan, Engin Blackstone, Stan Shanker and Debbie Bram

For questions about this initiative, contact Stan Shanker.

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