May Volunteers of the Month: The Atlanta Havurah
A group of Jewish families from all different congregations and communities has broken the mold of traditional co-sponsorship. The group calls themselves “The Atlanta Havurah.” Havurah is the Jewish word meaning “fellowship of like-minded Jews.”
Of the many volunteer opportunities New American Pathways has to offer, co-sponsorship of a newly arriving refugee family could be considered the most unique – and require the most intense commitment. Traditionally faith congregations have been our co-sponsors. Members of a co-sponsoring congregation are matched with a newly arriving refugee family and become their first American friends, helping the family to adapt to their new environment and reinforcing what they learn at New American Pathways.
But, now The Atlanta Havurah is both the first community group and first Jewish group to co-sponsor a family, and they have been amazing.
The initial idea for co-sponsoring a family came from John and Lindy Crane. They had a sense that that there was a diverse community here in Georgia that they wanted their family to connect with – that there was more to life than “the grind” of work, school, and extra-curricular activities.
Laurel Snyder, who is also a member of the Havurah, shared her reason for getting involved in the group: “I felt as a parent, that this would be a great way to model not just telling them what ‘good people’ do but actually living it out.”
The Havurah was matched with a family from Somalia. Before the family’s arrival, the Snyder family watched several programs on the conflict in Somalia so their children would have an understanding of the environment from which the family had fled. Being involved with this family has given her children a greater awareness of what is going on around the world. For Laurel personally, the Hebrew phrase Tikkum Olam or “repairing the world” is a part of what it means to be Jewish.
Through this experience the group has learned that you don’t need a physical building or name to come together and make an impact as a community. One Somali family is lucky to have been matched with the Havurah, and we are proud to fold the Havurah into our New American Pathways’ family.