News & Views

Weekly Wins Round-up: March 2022

Dear Friend of HIAS PA,

On March 24th, President Biden declared that the United States would welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees in the coming months! Please read our updated statement on what’s happening in Ukraine for more information, but know that we stand ready to welcome Ukrainian refugees when the time comes.

Just days before President Biden’s announcement, HIAS PA staff joined the Afghan community and immigration organizations throughout the city to celebrate Nowruz, Afghan new year. This event showed me how truly strong we are as a community, and I marveled at how quickly these newcomers were able to become Philadelphians.

As we head into the spring holiday season, I would like to invite you to our upcoming spring events; the first of which is Immigration Advocacy from a Faith-Based Perspective, a virtual panel discussion regarding the religious value of welcoming the stranger, happening on Zoom on Wednesday, April 13th at 12PM.

The second event that I would like to highlight is our Golden Door Awards, our annual celebration where we honor the amazing people who lead the way in support of immigrants and refugees. The Golden Door Awards will take place on Tuesday, May 24th, at the National Constitution Center (just around the corner from our new office on Independence Mall!).

Please join me in celebrating our successes, and I hope to see you at all of our upcoming events!

Nowruz Mobarak – happy new year! Afghan newcomers celebrate Nowruz with food, fun, and fashion!

It was so much fun celebrating Nowruz, or Afghan/Persian New Year, at Max Myers Rec Center on March 21st! I joined a group of HIAS PA clients and staff members to celebrate Nowruz. We took SEPTA together from South Philly to the Northeast for the event, where Philly’s Afghan community gathered for food, arts and crafts, and a fashion show! One of our guests who is originally from Afghanistan said, “Such events will not only encourage Afghans to remember enjoyable moments we had in our beloved Afghanistan, but will make us proud of being part of the Afghan community in Philadelphia, and will let us support each other and never feel loneliness.” We were so thrilled to have been part of such a warm, welcoming event!

-Becca Weber, Development and Communications Associate

Moldovan asylee in Philadelphia provides emergency relief to Ukrainian refugees abroad.

We’ve recently been able to help a Moldovan asylee client with his health needs and green card application. Before being forced to leave Moldova because of political persecution, my client used to work with a nonprofit relief organization in Moldova. That history allowed him to connect with his synagogue here in Philadelphia to coordinate emergency relief for Ukrainian refugees who are arriving in Moldova at a rate of 15,000 people per day. He wished to pass on this message to us:

“Thanks to HIAS Pennsylvania I was connected to this congregation in November 2021 and started attending their virtual services. Together, we organized a small campaign to support refugees fleeing from Ukraine! I am a big advocate of HIAS PA because you have supported me in the most difficult period of my life”.

Getting messages like this one always warms my heart!

-Safia Albaiti, Refugee Team Intern

A client receives employment and back pay, and justice is served!

Hooray for the Department of Justice (DOJ)! A longtime client from El Salvador has been eyeing a job at a local meat packing plant. She was denied employment because the employer erroneously demanded different documents to prove her work authorization. When it was clear the employer was not going to speak with me I reached out to the DOJ Civil Division Immigrant and Employee Rights division. Not only did I get a live human being immediately, but the case was assigned to a lawyer who reached out to the company that same day. My client is now working at the company, and thanks to the persistence of the DOJ, not only did our client get her job, but the company has agreed to pay her back wages for what she would have earned had they hired her when she applied instead of engaging in unlawful employment practices and violating federal law by not accepting her valid employment authorization document.

-Philippe Weisz, Director of Legal Services

Thank you to the musicians from Curtis Institute of Music and the Philadelphia Orchestra!

On Sunday, April 3rd, members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and faculty and students from the Curtis Institute of Music, hosted a benefit concert at the Philadelphia Ethical Society in support of HIAS Pennsylvania! They played a variety of folk songs and classical pieces from Afghanistan, Haiti, and Ukraine. Clients from HIAS PA were in attendance. When the whole room sang “A Prayer for Ukraine” in unison to cap off the concert, I couldn’t help but tear up. Thank you so much to the musicians for their generous time, wonderful music, and support! Particular thanks to Jennifer Montone, the Orchestra’s principal horn and a faculty member at Curtis who organized the benefit

-Ellen Freda, Director of Development

With the weight of the world on her shoulders, Ukrainian student perseveres!

We have a Ukrainian student in our Young Adult Mentoring program who has, understandably, been a little behind on her college applications and harder to reach, missing her mentor meetings. We had all been really nervous that she wouldn’t submit her college applications by the priority deadline. After her mentor and I reached out with many calls and texts of encouragement, I found out that they successfully met, and the student finished her Common App and personal statement!! I’m so relieved that she is still on track to meet her goals, and I’m impressed, proud, and inspired by her commitment even through this incredibly hard time for her and her family.

-Michelle Ferguson, High School and Post-Secondary Lead Instructor

Middle school students welcome the stranger, “no questions asked”.

I had the pleasure of speaking with students at Jack Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr about immigration at their Human Rights Conference in March. I conducted breakout sessions with middle school and high school students. Because it’s a Jewish school, my lesson plan touched on themes of Jewish law and tradition in our treatment of immigrants. I began the middle school session by asking, “Why should we as Jews care about immigrants?” One student answered, “because we are all made in the image of God.” Another said, “Abraham welcomed guests and gave them food to eat and a place to stay, so we must treat people this way, no questions asked.” These young students asked such thoughtful questions and seemed to understand their roles as Americans in truly “welcoming the stranger.”

-Rona Gershon, Intake Managing Attorney

Thank you for your continued support of HIAS Pennsylvania. I hope that these Weekly Wins from HIAS PA staff give you a lift, as they do me. Look out for more wins at the beginning of next month—and we hope to see you at the Interfaith Panel and the 2022 Golden Door Awards!

In health,

Cathryn Miller-Wilson