In the face of a deepening humanitarian crisis, Beth Emet volunteers strengthen efforts to support Syrian refugee family’s resettlement in Evanston
The gut-wrenching images of a chemical weapons attack in Syria that left dozens of civilians dead and sickened hundreds of others triggered painful memories for a Syrian refugee family that has resettled in Evanston and redoubled the resolve of Beth Emet volunteers helping the family.
Huda Hidar, 45, who fled the civil war with four sons and her daughter, lost her husband and her eldest son in an August 2013 chemical weapons attack near Damascus that American intelligence attributed to the Syrian military.
"She told us it was a hot day. Her children were sleeping up on the roof, but her husband was killed immediately. Her son was killed trying to help other people," explained Debbie Render, who is one of the Beth Emet volunteers assisting Huda and children.
After years of hardship, Huda and her surviving children – Mohammed, now 19; Ahmad, 17; Yara, 14; Abdalrahman, 12; and Khaled, 8 – arrived in Chicago last summer, hoping to rebuild their lives. Of the five million Syrian refugees who have sought safety in other countries, only 18,000 registered refugees have been resettled in the United States, including 1,197 in Illinois.
Through the Syrian Community Network – a not-for-profit, refugee support organization – the Beth Emet volunteers and the family connected. The volunteers learned, in very personal terms, how the conflict in Syria continues to unfold as one of the world’s most tragic, modern-day, humanitarian crises.
"We felt we couldn't just stand back and watch this happen...being Jewish, our families were immigrants (who) made lives here. People helped them. It's our turn," said Render in a local TV news interview.
Other Beth Emet volunteers include Debbie’s husband Bob; Susan Fisher and Jonathan Yenkin; Terri, Gary, and Annie Michaels; Susan Laws, and Kathy Kaberon. The volunteers have extended a helping hand – from finding employment for Huda and to tutoring the family in English – and a hand in friendship – visiting the zoo, going bowling, and sharing other activities together.
The greater Beth Emet community has played a vital role in the refugee support initiative. Rabbi Andrea London has encouraged the volunteers and forged a link between Beth Emet and the Syrian Community Network leadership. The Beth Emet Klei Kodesh and dozens of the Beth Emet community members have provided clothing and household supplies for the family.
Huda and her children – all of whom attend Evanston schools – live in a two-bedroom apartment. “Like other refugee families, Huda initially received a sum of public and private money to help her get settled,” noted Beth Emet volunteer Jonathan Yenkin.” But much of it has run out, and it's been a struggle to pay the monthly rent. She just got hired at a minimum-wage job, but even with that, we estimate she needs about $500 a month to help cover gaps in rent, utilities, and other expenses.”
To help fill the gap as the family works to become self-sufficient, the Beth Emet volunteers started an online fundraising drive.
Beth Emet’s volunteers have also reached out to other area congregations working with refugees to share advice and practical support. When Congregation Beth Am of Buffalo Grove needed to provide furnishings for a refugee family settling in Skokie, Beth Emet volunteers knew where to find the goods: from Rabbi London’s parents. As a result, Rabbi London’s childhood desk is now in the Skokie residence of a Syrian refugee family with four young children.
“The horrifying images of Syrians suffering in the wake of a chemical attack reminds us that we must strengthen our resolve to address the humanitarian tragedy that continues to unfold in Syria and do our utmost to help refugees in the U.S. When we see the enormous humanitarian disaster in Syria, we can feel powerless to make a difference, but helping one family who has suffered so much, including the tragic deaths of family members, does have a profound impact. I’m proud that Beth Emet is playing a vital role by helping a Syrian family resettle in Evanston,” said Rabbi Andrea London.
Also, for our Syrian refugee family, we seek the donation of two bicycles in good condition:
1) a boy's 24-inch bicycle
2) a woman's bicycle
Please contact Susan Fisher or 847-920-9427 to make the donation.
Please click here to make a monetary contribution.
Huda Hidar (center, second row) and her children (whose last name is Qatan) enjoy a visit to Lincoln Park Zoo.
First row: Mohammed and Khaled Qatan next to Beth Emet volunteers Susan Fisher and Debbie Render. Second row: Community volunteer Hala Nimeh, next to Yara and Ahmad Qatan, followed by Huda Hidar and Abdalrahman Quatan; with Beth Emet volunteers Jonathan Yenkin and Bob Render on the right.