Shaare Emeth congregants answer call for help from Afghan refugee family


Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

We as Jews know what it is to be a stranger in a strange land. The Torah mentions 36 times the need for us to welcome the stranger.

So, when the International Institute of St. Louis (IISTL) asked Congregation Shaare Emeth to be one of five organizations assisting in resettling Afghan refugees in St. Louis, members quickly created a new community support program.  A core group of 12 congregants works with one family for six months to help them become independent members of the St. Louis community. Marti Zuckerman chairs the group and each member is in charge of a specific area of resettlement.

“I can’t imagine the trauma of escaping a war-torn country, mixed with the disorientation of moving to a country without financial, social, and language skills,” said Zuckerman.

“The refugees who are arriving in St. Louis need our warm welcome and assistance to settle here in St. Louis,” added Debbie Bram,  Director of Jewish Life and Learning at Shaare Emeth. “We in St. Louis have a wonderful history of welcoming Bosnian and Syrian refugees and have the opportunity to do this work now with the Afghani refugees.”


The call 

This week the call came in. A family of six, including a new baby born just three weeks ago, had arrived in St. Louis from Afghanistan with literally the clothes on their backs.

“On Tuesday, Dec. 28 at 1 p.m. we sent out a call to our congregation for specific needs for our family,” said Bram. “These needs included clothing, toys, and household items. By 4 p.m., 95% of the items requested are filled. We have tremendous gratitude to be a part of a congregation that is so generous and welcoming.”

The team

Zuckerman’s team of synagogue members include Stephanie Battaglia-Esses, Dan Heymann, Harriet Kopolow, Carol Lander, David Lander, Marcene Menendez, Sue Picus, Anna Poger, Gary Ratkin, Sharon Remis and Andy and Stan Shanker. They are already engaged and busy helping the family with everything from grocery shopping to doctor’s appointments. They have even translated the driver’s license test into the appropriate language for the father of this family so that he can begin to study.

How you can help

The International Institute needs volunteers to assist in a wide variety of tasks, from setting up apartments, taking families grocery shopping to help them get acclimated to their surroundings. For more information about ways to be involved with the International Institute, go to

If you are interested in knowing more about how Shaare Emeth is engaging with refugee families, contact Debbie Bram, director of Jewish Life and Learning at [email protected].

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