HIAS Welcome Circles: A Jewish Community Resettlement Initiative
Since the start of the conflict in Ukraine in February 2022, over 6 million people have fled the country. At the same time, thousands of Afghan families, displaced since August 2021, still need assistance so they can start their new lives in their new American communities.
Resettling so many people in a short period of time is unprecedented in recent history and has strained the U.S. resettlement system, so a solution known as Sponsor Circles is being pioneered across the United States. With deep experience in refugee resettlement and honed strategies for educating, organizing, and mobilizing the Jewish community, HIAS launched HIAS Welcome Circles, a network of Afghan sponsor circles. Now, HIAS has adapted the model for Ukrainians.
If you know someone who you wish to support, whether they are already in the U.S. or are in a European host country and eligible for humanitarian parole under Uniting for Ukraine, you can apply now to become a HIAS Welcome Circle and gain access to HIAS’ resources, guides, trainings, and Community of Practice.
If you don’t know someone to sponsor, HIAS and partners are building structures to match circles with Ukrainians in the U.S. or abroad. Start your application to become a Welcome Circle now, and once approved, HIAS will move you forward to the matching process.
If your congregation or organization is interested in forming a HIAS Welcome Circle for Ukrainians, Welcome Circles for Ukrainians must: Launch with a minimum of five people (over the age of 18) and HIAS recommends the core group not exceed a maximum of eight people; Commit to a minimum six-month period of support, with the goal of the newcomer(s) achieving self-sufficiency; Pass mandatory background checks and an online knowledge assessment on the roles and responsibilities of circles as part of the application process; Submit a “Welcome Plan” through which they articulate the ways they will connect Ukrainian newcomers to supports and services during the initial resettlement phase. This plan will include securing housing, accessing benefits, connecting to healthcare and education, and other forms of community orientation.
HIAS will provide support to Welcome Circles, including technical and operational resources on best practices in refugee resettlement; technical expertise; peer-to-peer mentoring; and Jewish resources to ground the experience and the work.
The national Afghan sponsor circle model is being created by the Community Sponsorship Hub (CSH) with direct support and guidance from Canadian agencies. HIAS Welcome Circles build on this core model.
HIAS Welcome Circles are made up of groups of 5-8 people who will have close contact with Afghans they are sponsoring. All participating sponsors will be vetted and approved by HIAS (including complete background checks) and must be 18 years old or older.
HIAS Welcome Circle participants are expected to commit a minimum of six months of support for Afghan refugees as they begin to settle into communities.
HIAS Welcome Circle members will meet new Afghan arrivals at the airport, help find housing and furnishings, help to find jobs, register children for schools, and sign individuals up for public benefits such as TANF and SNAP among other responsibilities.
HIAS Welcome Circles are expected to raise a minimum of $2,275 per Afghan individual they welcome; however, based on cost of living, access to in-kind support, and other factors, HIAS strongly recommends that circles raise more than this amount.
As an umbrella agency, HIAS will provide support to Welcome Circles, including technical and operational resources on best practices in refugee resettlement; technical expertise; peer-to-peer mentoring; and Jewish resources to ground the experience and the work.
Successful resettlement and integration are a local endeavor. HIAS is ready to meet the challenge of the current moment — providing resources, technical guidance, and support to the Jewish community so that they can welcome and assist new Afghan neighbors to begin to rebuild their lives.
If your congregation or organization is interested in forming a HIAS Welcome Circle or for more information, contact Isabel Burton, Senior Director for Community Engagement Initiatives, at firstname.lastname@example.org.