On Monday, January 31, the Jewish Federation of Western Connecticut was invited to attend and speak at a press conference organized by Senator Richard Blumenthal and held at the Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury. The purpose of the press conference was to gain support for the “Honor Our Commitment Act”, a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Senator Blumenthal that would expand efforts to evacuate at-risk Afghan allies who remain in Afghanistan and resettle them in the U.S.
In addition to the Federation, the press conference was attended by a number of Connecticut-based Refugee Support Groups and local elected officials. However, the most important attendee was Nilab. Nilab is one of our Afghan allies who was rescued and has resettled here in Western Connecticut. Unfortunately, the rest of her family was not able to make it to the airport. Her family is now in hiding in Afghanistan and in need of rescue. As you can imagine, Nilab is extremely worried about them. She and her family are prime examples of why Senator’s Blumenthal’s initiative is so important.
Unfortunately, the rest of her family was not able to make it to the airport. Her family is now in hiding in Afghanistan and in need of rescue. As you can imagine, Nilab is extremely worried about them. She and her family are prime examples of why Senator Blumenthal’s initiative is so important.
Merri Klar, a Federation member who has been providing support and guidance to Nilab in her adjustment to our country, reached out to Rabbi Eric Polokoff and me about Nilab's concerns with respect to her family. We were able to get Nilab in touch with Senator Blumenthal’s office to help her and other recent refugees to shine a light on those Afghan allies who were unable to be evacuated.
Below is Gary's talk that was delivered at the press conference emphasizing the Jewish community’s support for refugees in general and for those who continue to need our help to escape from Afghanistan.
On behalf of the Jewish Federation of Western Connecticut, I would like to thank Senator Blumenthal for taking a lead role in this important effort on behalf of our at-risk Afghan allies.
With the help of everyone here, we can find a way to help Nilab's family and other friends and allies still in Afghanistan who are in imminent danger as a result of their support for the United States.
It goes without saying that America should always honor its commitments to those who provide support to us at great risk to themselves. We should always do the right thing.
For the Jewish community, support for refugees generally is a bedrock principle and deeply personal. We have been refugees in the United States and in many, many other countries. We know how important it is to have a safe haven.
However, the commitment goes much deeper than that for the Jewish community. In fact, it goes back to the very first Jewish person – Abraham. Abraham, as we know, is the father of the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
With all of Abraham’s amazing attributes, Jewish tradition tells us that Abraham’s biggest virtue is the way he took great pains to welcome strangers, and make them feel at home. How well we treat strangers and people who need our help is a measure of our humanity.
As a result of the lesson of Abraham, the Jewish community, in coalition with friends from other faith and advocacy groups, will always welcome refugees. In this instance, we will also work diligently to rescue people who, at great personal sacrifice, helped our country so that we may soon be able to welcome them to our shores as well.
Thank you all for including the Jewish Federation in this important humanitarian endeavor.
Click the link below to view Gary's Speech