Upon hearing disparaging comments about Muslims early in the presidential campaign, Norma Kaplis, a member of Newtown Meeting sought divine guidance in meeting for worship. She asked, “How can I respond in a useful, positive way to these dark pronouncements?” In a flash of clarity, she got the message, ‘Form an interfaith coalition of local people, bring a family to our community and help them settle here, adjust, and become independent. Be compassionate and let them feel loved.” “By doing this,” she said, “I would be offering my share of Tikkun Olam, Healing the World! (from my Jewish heritage).”
Norma worked for a full year drawing together others who would join in this ministry of hospitality. She spoke to churches and synagogues and community groups, and she set up a table at community events. Norma’s inspiration grew into the Bucks County Interfaith Coalition for Refugee Resettlement which now includes over 150 people from a wide range of faith communities including a mosque, three synagogues, several meetings in Bucks Quarter, and four churches.
By the fall of 2016, the coalition was ready to host a family. An apartment was found and furnished with donated goods. On November 15 they welcomed a young Syrian family: parents Moustafa and Amal ages 21 and 20 and their two little girls Yusra and Rasha, ages 3 and 1. The participating congregations raised over $20,000 to cover rent and other needs until the family is able to be independent.
A core team of six, Quaker, Jew, and Muslim, coordinates the efforts. The larger group provides volunteer drivers, ESL teachers, babysitters, bilingual interpreters, and other support. Every 10 days or so a news update is sent to the whole team of volunteers and supporters.
The active volunteers have found this work to be educational and uplifting. We have been blessed to find ourselves working with a bright and highly motivated family who are working hard to get their feet on the ground and who have become increasingly independent. Already the father has a full-time entry level job to which he commutes by bicycle. Our goal is for them to become self-sufficient and to need us only as friends in their new community.
For more info contact BCICRR@gmail.com.