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Briarcliff Synagogue Joins to Help Local Refugee Resettlement Efforts

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The images of thousands of Afghan citizens trying to flee their country last August was heartbreaking for many to watch. But the developments halfway around the world spurred congregants at Congregation Sons of Israel (CSI) in Briarcliff Manor to help out any way they could.

After talking to a synagogue member who had been involved in refugee resettlement during the Syrian crisis and the congregation’s rabbi, Steven Kane, Abbe Marcus and Julie Peskoe launched the CSI Refugee Resettlement Committee.

Working with other community groups, including Ossining for Refugees, they have joined a growing number of grassroots efforts around Westchester to help families who might otherwise have difficulty transitioning to life in America.

“Especially in the Jewish community and the CSI community, we are keenly aware that our grandparents or great-grandparents and the struggles and challenges they had coming here,” Marcus said of the motivation. “So, we are driven by our values and principles and our collective narrative.”

During the fall there had been a Zoom meeting with other community organizations that were also preparing their efforts. The committee’s kickoff meeting was Nov. 21 with each person in attendance sharing their family’s immigration story, Peskoe said.

Since then, the Refugee Resettlement Committee created eight smaller committees each taking on a separate task, such as housing, employment, education, transportation, community orientation, finance and to help with furnishings, clothing and personal care needs, she said.

The hope is that the committee can help one Afghan refugee family in the first part of 2022. With an estimated 54,000 refugees who have fled, many are or will be in need of community assistance, Peskoe said.

“Some of them, as we understand it, some don’t need the help of community,” Peskoe explained. “They have family members of friends here and have the ability to get themselves jobs and are independent. But there are a significant number that do need a community sponsorship model.”

Marcus said that their committee’s relationship with the other community organizations has been key in instituting best practices in addition to receiving invaluable mentoring. She said the biggest challenge has been housing given the cost of finding a suitable residence.

However, the Refugee Resettlement Committee is off to a good start in obtaining initial funding. An anonymous donor from the congregation pledged a $10,000 matching donation, which has been accomplished, so that money is in place. Plus, community members who aren’t part of the congregation want to help, Marcus said.

“We are happy to accept donations from outside the community and for them to volunteer,” Peskoe said.

Marcus explained that the long-range plan is to have a consistent effort so whenever the need arises to help a family, the CSI Refugee Resettlement Committee can be counted on.

“Our long-term goal is that we create a really strong structure and that we can continue on and continue to help families in the future, and we know there will be many, many more Afghan families that are going to need our support,” she said.

For more information on the committee’s efforts, visit

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