Helping Refugees Feel Safe and Protected

Originally posted on Jewish Family Service website.

Ellie, a seventh-grade student at Goddard Middle School, loves creating art, experimenting with different recipes, and playing competitive soccer. And when this compassionate teen heard about JFS helping to resettle Afghan evacuees, she wanted to make a difference.

Through her temple, Temple Sinai, Ellie learned about the struggles facing resettled evacuees and JFS’s efforts to help them start new lives in Colorado. With preparations underway for her upcoming bat mitzvah, Ellie saw an opportunity to help babies.

“What made me want to help was that my project is connected to my Torah portion, Pinchas,” said Ellie. “Pinchas tells the story of the daughters of Zelophehad escaping persecution in Egypt and who are now refugees seeking the land of Israel. The Jews were once refugees, and now many Afghan people face the same situation. I chose to help because I hope this small act will help them to feel safe and protected.”

Kathy, Ellie’s mom, reached out to JFS about her daughter coordinating a food drive with culturally appropriate foods. The two learned that when Afghan refugee families arrive, they stay at a transitional housing site while JFS finds them long-term housing. While the government provides three Halal meals a day to refugee families while staying in transitional housing, Halal infant food is not provided. Ellie decided to coordinate a food drive for Halal baby food for infants and children up to a year old with that newfound knowledge.

Ellie used her mom’s social media platform to share her project with friends and family along with Temple Sinai’s newsletter and monthly magazine to reach fellow congregants. People were encouraged to leave donations in a designated spot outside of Ellie’s home or have items delivered through the Amazon wish list she created. When Ellie received a financial gift, she purchased more baby food.

“When I get food in the mail, or my mom tells me somebody donated money, it fills me with joy,” said Ellie. “I cannot express the amount of happiness I felt when I did my first drop-off at JFS. I felt like even just my small act could make a big difference to these people.”

Ellie’s mom shared, “There is a thought that there are the three H’s of Jewish life; the head, the hand, and the heart. As my husband, Ted, and I worked towards raising two children, we wanted to be sure they understood this model as a way to find balance and to lead a good life. When Ellie started studying for her bat mitzvah, she continued on building her head and heart by studying the Torah and prayers. While studying, Ellie found her Torah portion really rang true for her. In Pinchas, it is the first time women are granted land rights. Ellie wanted to work on the last H of the three, the heart. She wanted her mitzvah project to reflect the women’s struggles and successes on their journey to Israel. Knowing that women are still experiencing these same things, she wanted to find a way to support others on their journey. We are so proud of how she chose to help others through her project and are excited to watch her as she becomes a young Jewish woman.”

The food drive was Ellie’s first project with JFS, but she believes it won’t be the last. “I hope that younger people of our community can learn that even the smallest mitzvah can make all kinds of differences,” said Ellie.

If you or your family want to learn more about mitzvah/volunteer projects, send an email to volunteer@jewishfamilyservice.org.