As we prepare for Passover next month, many of us are reflecting on the words of Leviticus: “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.”
This year, our Jewish community is living out the words of Leviticus, We are welcoming strangers to our land and loving them as ourselves.
Last year, the Jewish Community Relations Council and PACE, the Pakistani Americans for Compassion, pledged to co-sponsor a Syrian refugee family’s resettlement in Louisville. Through this Jewish-Muslim partnership, we hoped to build more friendships between our communities and display Louisville’s compassion and interfaith friendship to refugees arriving to our city.
On Monday, March 7, we started this journey. That evening shortly after 11 p.m., the AlSaid Musafa family arrived in Louisville. The family, who fled Syria several years ago, found themselves at Louisville International Airport after two long days of travel that had taken them from Cairo, Egypt, to Frankfurt, Germany, then on to Chicago, and finally here to Louisville where a group of volunteers from the Jewish and Muslim communities were waiting to welcome them.
Our work had started two weeks earlier. We received notice from the Kentucky Refugee Ministries that a family was arriving in Louisville. We knew little about the family: A husband and wife, and their two children, ages 6 and 9. Despite this limited information, we set to work preparing for their arrival.
With the help of volunteers and donors in our community, we outfitted their home with couches, beds, tables and lamps. We purchased new bedding and towels. We stocked their pantry with staples and Middle Eastern specialties, so they would arrive to food both new and familiar. We even gathered toys and books for the children to welcome them to their new home.
With all this in place, we headed to the airport to meet our refugee family.
When the AlSaid Musafas walked out of the security check point at the airport, they were visibly tired from two days of travel. But when our Arabic-speaking case worker said hello, their eyes lit up. They had left their temporary home in Egypt not knowing who – if anyone – would be at the other end of their journey in Louisville. And here was a group of a dozen volunteers, welcoming them to their new home! Over the past few weeks, we’ve gotten the chance to know the AlSaid Musafa family: Maher and Maidia, and their children, 6-year old Tarek and 9-year old Mirna. Maher is a woodworker, carpenter and craftsman. The family fled Aleppo, Syria and has been awaiting refugee resettlement in Cairo, Egypt. They are eager to learn English, so much in fact that by the time we drove them home from the airport, they had already learned how to say “thank you.”
In a few short weeks, those of us volunteering with the family have not only welcomed them to Louisville, but become their friends as well. It has been some of the most rewarding and enjoyable work I’ve ever done.
I hope you’ll join me in welcoming the AlSaid Musafa family as they make Louisville their home. If you’d like to help, email Matt Goldberg at email@example.com. Here are some ways you can make a difference:
- Volunteer your time. The family is a delight to visit. They are eager to learn English and need to practice. Visit with them during the week or on the weekend. Help them practice their English. Introduce them to something you love about Louisville.
- Donate. The family arrived to Louisville with very little. We are helping them purchase new clothes and other necessities.
- Connect with Employment. We are helping Maher find work. If you know of a lead for a furniture carpenter or woodworker, please let us know.
This Passover, as we remember our journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in Israel, let us also remember those making that same journey today: from fear and oppression to freedom and joy.
Our work with the AlSaid Musafa family is a poignant reminder of the importance of freedom this Passover season.