Beth Emet - The Free Synagogue

Beth Emet is a diverse, multigenerational Reform community with a dynamic approach to Judaism. Our congregation seeks to create a spiritually vibrant, socially conscious, intellectually challenging, and deeply caring environment firmly rooted in Jewish tradition and values.

Syrian Refugees for web
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 interviewlocal 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. 


Photo:
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.

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  • Rabbi Andrea C. London

    Rabbi Andrea London is a nationally recognized Jewish leader who has served at Beth Emet since 2000 and was named the congregation’s Senior Rabbi in July 2010. Rabbi London is deeply engaged in all aspects of congregational...

  • Rabbi Amy L. Memis-Foler

    Rabbi Amy L. Memis-Foler, D.D. became a rabbi because of her love of Judaism and desire to teach others, share in their spiritual journey and make the world a better place than we found it.

    She joined Beth Emet in the Fall...

  • Cantor Rabbi Kyle Cotler

    Kyle comes from a long line of Jewish music – his great-grandfather was a Chazzan in Russia; his grandfather, Ted, served in Ventura; and his father, Doug, is currently the cantor at Or Ami in Calabasas. Kyle studied at the...

  • Rabbi Peter S. Knobel z"l

    Rabbi Knobel was rabbi emeritus at Beth Emet The Free Synagogue in Evanston, Illinois where he served since 1980, following 11 years at Temple Emanu-El in Groton, Connecticut.  He served as the Interim Senior Rabbi of Templ...

  • Bekki Harris Kaplan

    Bekki Harris Kaplan joined Beth Emet's professional team in July 2001 after working as the Associate Executive Director and Membership Director at Temple Sholom of Chicago. In addition to supervising the functioning of Beth...

  • Marci Dickman

    Marci Dickman joined Beth Emet in July, 2009 with more than 25 years of experience in Jewish education. Marci serves as the Director of Lifelong Learning, acting as the Principal of Beit Sefer and overseeing our Early Child...

  • Kathy Kaberon

    Kathy Kaberon is Beth Emet's Director of Young Family Programs. She has been an administrator in Beth Emet's Early Childhood Program for the past 10 years. Her affiliation with the program began in 1988, when she enrolled h...

  • Maia Volk

    Maia Volk joined Beth Emet in July 2018 as the Director of Youth Programs, overseeing the formal and informal education of Beth Emet youth.  Maia grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan and spent her summers as a camper and staff at...

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Beth Emet is a diverse, multigenerational Reform community with a dynamic approach to Judaism. Our congregation seeks to create a spiritually vibrant, socially conscious, intellectually challenging, and deeply caring environment firmly rooted in Jewish tradition and values.

  • Rabbi Andrea C. London

    Rabbi Andrea London is a nationally recognized Jewish leader who has served at Beth Emet since 2000 and was named the congregation’s Senior Rabbi in July 2010. Rabbi London is deeply engaged in all aspects of congregational...

  • Rabbi Amy L. Memis-Foler

    Rabbi Amy L. Memis-Foler, D.D. became a rabbi because of her love of Judaism and desire to teach others, share in their spiritual journey and make the world a better place than we found it.

    She joined Beth Emet in the Fall...

  • Cantor Rabbi Kyle Cotler

    Kyle comes from a long line of Jewish music – his great-grandfather was a Chazzan in Russia; his grandfather, Ted, served in Ventura; and his father, Doug, is currently the cantor at Or Ami in Calabasas. Kyle studied at the...

  • Rabbi Peter S. Knobel z"l

    Rabbi Knobel was rabbi emeritus at Beth Emet The Free Synagogue in Evanston, Illinois where he served since 1980, following 11 years at Temple Emanu-El in Groton, Connecticut.  He served as the Interim Senior Rabbi of Templ...

  • Bekki Harris Kaplan

    Bekki Harris Kaplan joined Beth Emet's professional team in July 2001 after working as the Associate Executive Director and Membership Director at Temple Sholom of Chicago. In addition to supervising the functioning of Beth...

  • Marci Dickman

    Marci Dickman joined Beth Emet in July, 2009 with more than 25 years of experience in Jewish education. Marci serves as the Director of Lifelong Learning, acting as the Principal of Beit Sefer and overseeing our Early Child...

  • Kathy Kaberon

    Kathy Kaberon is Beth Emet's Director of Young Family Programs. She has been an administrator in Beth Emet's Early Childhood Program for the past 10 years. Her affiliation with the program began in 1988, when she enrolled h...

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