WJCI Discusses Afghan Refugee Resettlement

Photo above: Holly Rosen Fink. Photo below: Manny Lindenbaum

By Stephen E. Lipken


Holly Rosen Fink, President and Co-Founder, Westchester Jewish Coalition for Immigrants (WJCI) hosted a special Shames JCC Renard Lecture about the Afghan refugee crisis on Monday, January 3rd, “Escaping Nazis and the Taliban: We Are All Refugees,” featuring Afghan refugee Fari* and Holocaust Kindertransport (children’s transport) Survivor Manny Lindenbaum.  


“We came here in March 2020,” Fari began. “It was hard coming here without family and friends.  We did not know the language.  It was hard to leave our homes. HIAS provided an apartment and food. 


“When the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021, girls were not allowed to go to school after age 14, including Universities.  Men must accompany women when they went out.


Families were forced to sell their children to get money for food. Women cannot not hold outside jobs but must stay home,” Fari stressed.


Expelled from his hometown in Unna, Germany, young Lindenbaum was put on a train leaving Gdansk in 1939, eventually winding up in England. His sister, mother and father were murdered. “My parents were heroes, able to turn me over to strangers and walk away.   


“We have to speak out.  We have to be more active, with less bystanders. Our differences are minor,” Lindenbaum stressed. “I talk to kids in school. When they are quiet, they are the problem.”  


“When I met a German, my stomach would tighten up,” Lindenbaum continued. “But there are young Germans who are trying to make a difference, who had nothing to do with the murder of one and a half million children. 


“Although we listen to media and TV rant and rave against refugees, statistics show that refugees have a far lower crime rate than the general population.  United States was built on refugees, even indigenous people who arrived centuries ago,” Lindenbaum concluded. 


“Responding to the urgent need to resettle thousands of Afghans who were forced to leave their country, WJCI was recently awarded grants from UJA-Federation of New York and Shapiro Foundation to support refugee resettlement,” Rosen-Fink stated, noting that some 30,000 Afghans remain on American military bases. 


WJCI will establish 15-20 new “Host Groups” this year, trained through HIAS and Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services.  Each group will help its members find housing, furnishings, supplies, clothing and lead families in securing education for their children, English language instruction, job interview skills and employment.


*Last name omitted to protect her family still living in Afghanistan.