A Syrian refugee family will be arriving in this local area in the next few months. The devastating war in Syria has led many families to risk their lives to leave their homes and seek safety. They have been waiting for two years or longer while being vetted, undergoing rigorous security screening. The federal government is supporting the resettling of 10,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S. this year. Since 2011, over 2,000 Syrian refugees have already found homes in the U.S., including dozens living in New Jersey.

A local group called Refugee Assistance Partners (RAP) is ready to help one family find a home and will provide some basic necessities. The group's motto is “We Choose Welcome.” Federal funding will provide money for about three months of rent. RAP will be working together with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), which has professional expertise in helping refugee families find jobs, send their children to schools, and become self-sufficient.

RAP has been meeting once per month for almost a year. It is a humanitarian partnership, which includes dozens of volunteers from Jewish, Christian and Muslim congregations from local communities. Along with many other such volunteer organizations in New Jersey, it seeks to provide for material needs and to offer friendship as well as hospitality to a refugee family. Additional volunteers are welcome and may help in a variety of ways.

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“The United States has a history of accepting immigrants. Many immigrants have fled dangers in their countries and sought a better life in the U.S. Many Irish fled from the potato famine, Jews fled from the Holocaust, Italians, Germans and Asians came here to find new opportunities," said August Ruggiero, a founding member of RAP. "Often these new immigrants were seen as a threat by some Americans. Each of us can choose to show compassion now and do whatever we can to help one family, as millions of Syrian refugees seek safe lives in countries around the world.”

At the next meeting of RAP, the community will learn more about specific ways to help a refugee family from an IRC representative. This meeting will be on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m. at Temple Shalom, 1925 Lake Ave., Scotch Plains. For more information, email refugeeassistancepartnersnj@gmail.com.