HIAS Shabbat: Lifting Up Immigrants
Congregation Agudat Achim will host an Immigrant Shabbat on Saturday, February 25.
This year’s program will focus on Literacy Volunteers of Rensselaer County Program (LVORC) and how it is meeting the needs of adults and out-of-school teens, for whom English is not their native language, and who need assistance in reading, writing and English-speaking skills. It also will speak to the larger value of supporting immigrants in their quest for learning and how congregants can help meet those needs. Agudat Achim is assisting LVORC to increase the availability of volunteer tutors and classes in the Schenectady area to meet current demand.
The event is inspired by HIAS’ annual Refugee Shabbat, a larger annual recognition in which congregations around the world dedicate a Sabbath experience to refugees and asylum seekers, learn more about their needs, and understand how individuals and congregations can help meet those needs. HIAS is the world’s oldest refugee agency, formally established as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in 1902 to help fellow Jews fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe. Today, in keeping with the organization’s Jewish ethical roots, HIAS is a multi-continent, multi-pronged humanitarian aid and advocacy organization with thousands of employees dedicated to helping forcibly displaced persons around the world.
Looking for volunteers
Literacy Volunteers recruits and extensively trains volunteers to be tutors, who work either one-on-one or in small group instruction in reading and writing, English as a new language, math, financial literacy, computer literacy, workplace literacy, citizenship preparation and reading mentors for children in elementary school.
“Our program is tailored to the specific needs of each student,” said Executive Director Nancy Benz, be it helping them study for a high school GED, or learning the fundamentals of the English language to help them function more effectively in society. While LVORC currently has more than 140 volunteers, it is not enough to meet the requests of the nearly 200 people who want to use LVORC’s free services. LVORC offers periodic training for new volunteers, and Agudat Achim is hoping to engage members to support that effort, especially in the Schenectady area.
Nancy Benz will be speaking at the HIAS Shabbat, along with a tutor who will share the impact that volunteering in the program has made on both the tutor and student. The Congregation also will honor immigrant members of the congregation. Any immigrant or child of an immigrant who would like to participate should contact Hillary Fink or Cathy Winter by Monday, Feb. 20.
Congregants can attend in person, with Sabbath morning services starting at 9:15 am, or via Live Stream. A kiddush luncheon will follow the service. The congregation is located at 2117 Union Street in Niskayuna, NY.
The event is sponsored by the Congregation Agudat Achim Social Action Committee. In sharing a goal of the committee, former (and late) Chair Stephen Schechter, noted, “It is easy to forget that each refugee is a human being with a powerful story to tell. Perhaps by listening to, and learning from the stories of others, we can take one small step toward Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world, in our small corner of it.”