Welcoming Afghan Refugees: A Positive Update

We are thrilled about the Biden Administration’s announcement yesterday of a new coordinator for Afghan evacuation and relocation efforts. This is a step in the right direction, and more is needed to rescue Afghan SIV holders and their families who helped U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Since August 1, JFS has been working around the clock to get 166 people directly affiliated with our organization, including relatives of staff or clients of JFS, out of Afghanistan. So far, our Refugee and Immigrant Services program (RIS), in partnership with HIAS (formerly Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), have been successful at helping 25 families, comprised of 113 individuals (including several children) evacuate Afghanistan. But many more remain in the country, and they are facing traumatic circumstances.

The good news, however, is that the State Department named veteran diplomat Elizabeth Jones as its new coordinator for Afghan relocation efforts. The administration says Jones will be responsible for overseeing and facilitating the departure of people who still wish to leave.

For the last several weeks, JFS has called for the appointment of a “point person” or “Tsar” to lead the effort from within the Office of the President, speaking with national media including MSNBC’s Morning Joe, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and CBS News.

In a USA Today opinion piece, CEO Rabbi Will Berkovitz pleaded with the Biden Administration to create an expedited process, with the full strength of the White House behind it, to get Afghans who remain in the country out of harm’s way. Rabbi Will reminded us that, “As Jews, we know this story all too well.”

“Never forget” is a call to action, not just a suggestion to always remember. For our Jewish community, it doesn’t matter that we are trying to save Muslims. As our tradition teaches, “One who saves a single life, saves an entire world.”

As well, earlier this month, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and 11 Senate colleagues called on President Biden to appoint an Afghan refugee point person. JFS has been working closely with Sen. Cantwell’s office on these efforts.

“While we believe today’s announcement is positive news, what’s needed is someone independent of the State Department with the authority of the White House to lead this effort effectively,” says JFS CEO Rabbi Will Berkovitz.

JFS will continue to do all we can to help make that happen and safely resettle Afghan individuals and families who arrive in Seattle. We are especially grateful to our community who has stepped up to help provide recently arrived Afghan families with necessary hygiene items, beds, bedding, diapers, and more.

To read more about our efforts evacuating, welcoming, and resettling Afghan refugees, please  visit our Press & Publications section. If you’d like to volunteer, please visit our Volunteer Services page. Also, donations are always welcome! You can make a gift of any amount here. Thank you!

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