NEW Update on Vassar Refugee Resettlement Project

[Scroll down to see earlier posts in descending chronological order.]


January 2017 – WOW!! We all did it. Let’s kvel. NY Times Article

November 13th – Vassar Temple holds a meeting to start organizing our “Welcome Team” in accordance with the role that Church World Service has sponsors play.
Link to information on the Role of Refugee Welcoming Teams.

November 10th Church World Services Informational Meeting at Christ Episcopal Church in Poughkeepsie:
Follow this link for HNN news coverage of a recent Church World Services informational meeting.

November 6th Church World Services Informational meeting at Vassar College:

Introducing the refugee resettlement initiative to an audience of over 300 at a community meeting held Nov. 6 were Andi Ciminello (Vassar Temple refugee resettlement), Rev. Susan Fortunato (Christ Episcopal Church), Umar Ahmad (Masjid al Noor), Rabbi Leah Berkowitz (Vassar Temple), Rev. Deborah Hafner DeWinter, (First Evangelical Lutheran Church), Dr. Maria Hoehn (Mid Hudson Refugee Solidarity Alliance), Sarah Krause and Roisin Ford (CWS), Jon Chenette ( Interim President, Vassar College). The first refugee families are expected in early 2017. To help please contact .

Images captured at the Mid-Hudson Refugee Solidarity Alliance “Community Meeting” at Vassar College. A packed room of people from the community, college faculty, students, clergy, representatives of Church World Services, local government, and supporters for the Alliance, gathered at Vassar College to hear an explanation of the refugee resettlement efforts, let voices be heard, and questions answered.

RELEASE: November 6, 2016 – Update on Refugee Resettlement Project
Earlier this year the Vassar Temple Board voted to join Vassar College Refugee Solidarity Project, a project to support refugee resettlement in Dutchess County through a collaboration with Vassar College and local faith-based institutions, including Vassar Temple, Christ Episcopal Church, the Mid-Hudson Islamic Association, along with Duchess Community College, SUNY New Paltz, Marist College and Mount St. Mary College.
This project is moving forward! Church World Service (CWS) received approval from the U.S. State Department to receive and relocate refugee families to the Hudson Valley, all of whom have been screened and vetted through the offices of the US State Department and Homeland Security. As sponsors, Vassar Temple will work with CWS to assist the designated families with resettlement through financial support, and guidance with housing, schools, medical care and employment. Click here for information about CWS.

Over 300 participants attended standing-room only Community Meeting at Vassar College on November 6th.. Representatives from CWS, addressed questions about the resettlement process. Rabbi Berkowitz led the clergy welcome along with the other founding faith-based congregations, Christ Episcopal Church and Majid Al-Noor Mosque. Together they reaffirmed our dedication to welcoming refugee families into our community.
Representatives from the different sponsor groups were also in attendance to express their support and work on committee assignments. We are very proud to note that Vassar Temple was the first to make this very important commitment, setting a fine example of leadership for other congregations and fellowships in our region.

As many of us have watched the current refugee crisis unfold, we have felt helpless in our ability to take a concrete action to make a difference. With this project, we can do more than advocacy and fundraising; we can welcome a family to our community and demonstrate our commitment to addressing the worldwide refugee crisis.
Andi Ciminello and Lisa Rubenstein are serving as Co-Captains for the Vassar Temple team. If you want to be involved in this project and aren’t already receiving updates, please contact them at the email listed below and you will be added to the Vassar Temple Refugee Resettlement Team.

Link to Dr. Umar M. Ahmed remarks

Link to Rabbi Leah R. Berkowitz remarks

Link to Video of the meeting.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: October 9,2016

We are thrilled to announce that Church World Service (CWS) has been approved by the US Department of State, Bureau of Population and Migration (PRM) to open a refugee resettlement office in Poughkeepsie, New York.

More details will be forthcoming soon. We will also be in touch very soon about a meeting of our community at Vassar College to discuss the way forward. By then we will also have more information from CWS.

A public information session with staff from CWS headquarters will also be held onThursday, November 10th (2 – 7PM) at a location to be determined.

Thank you for your continued support and looking forward to our important work ahead.

Warm Regards,
Vassar Refugee Solidarity



From: VC Solidarity
Sent: Wednesday, August 24, 2016 8:27 AM
Subject: Dutchess Refugee Resettlement update

Dear friends:

Church World Services (CWS) is awaiting official approval from the US State Department. Upon receiving approval, CWS looks forward to meetings with the community and partners and Vassar Solidarity events to prepare for refugee welcome in the Hudson Valley. Any interested individuals can sign up here Email Sign Up to receive future updates from CWS directly. We will of course also stay in touch with you about updates and news.

CWS is asking us to encourage individuals, faith communities and organizations to visit and sign an electronic postcard to be sent to President Obama.

Community and faith-based organizations can also bundle signed cards and mail them to 110 Maryland Avenue, NE, Suite 110, Washington, DC, 20002 by September 12th so they can be delivered to Congress and President Obama before the UN summit on refugees.

The president and congress needs to hear from you. Please urge President Obama that the U.S. needs to lead by example in responding to the refugee crisis at the upcoming UN General Assembly and White House Summit.

As soon as CWS receives the official approval, we are planning a large gathering with them at Vassar College for all the individuals and groups involved.

We are grateful for all your support and what you have done to help us move this initiative forward. We extend a warm welcome to our new partners.

Thank you,
Vassar Refugee Solidarity

On Sunday, June 5th more than 50 members of the interfaith community gathered at Vassar Temple to learn more about the Vassar Refugee Resettlement Project. This project, led by Dr. Maria Hoehn, of Vassar College, is working with faith-based communities to resettle refugee families in the Hudson Valley. Vassar Temple, Christ Church and Masjid-Al-Noor – the three Abrahamic Faiths – have each committed to sponsoring a refugee family through the US Department of State’s resettlement program.

The meeting was an opportunity to introduce the community to this very important project and to learn more about the resettlement process. Rabbi Berkowitz opened the meeting with a Jewish teachings about welcoming the stranger. We also heard from Dr. Hoehn about how the project has been developed with education and outreach among Vassar faculty and students. Participants from Masjid-Al-Noor and Christ Church reaffirmed their commitment to the project. We were very fortunate to have Pastor Deborah Hafner deWinter from First Lutheran Church speak about US Refugee Law & Policy. Pastor Deborah has worked with Church World Service and other organizations on refugee resettlement project in this country and overseas.

Below is a summary of the current status of the project and what we believe will occur over the next few months:

• Church World Services (CWS) has submitted an application via the NY State Refugee Coordinator to the U.S. Department of State for establishing a VOLAG in Poughkeepsie for the lower Hudson Valley.
o This VOLAG or Voluntary Agency will be the nodal agency responsible for resettlement.

• CWS expects to hear from the U.S. Department of State in 4-5 weeks and we are optimistic about the outcome given the already existing commitment and support in our community

• If the application is approved, we can expect to start resettling refugees by December/January in our community (and a 50-mile radius) and will need your efforts and enthusiasm to ensure our community is a welcoming place for all.

• Once we have the go-ahead (hopefully by mid-July), we can start getting ready to collect furniture and other useful items. The Arnoff family has generously offered a trailer to be kept at Vassar College for that purpose.

• Vassar Temple, Christ Church and Masjid-Al-Noor are the three congregations so far that have officially committed to co-sponsor one family each together with CWS.
o There is enthusiasm from other congregations to join the effort and we are waiting for the approval of the VOLAG to welcome more partners.

Looking forward to a sustained and fruitful partnership. Together we can make a difference in the lives of refugee families.





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