Jewish Community Relations Councilof San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, Sonoma, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties


Supporting Refugees and Immigrants

December 7, 2016
Posted by: Jeremy Russell, Director of Marketing & Communications

Bear a Torch – Following the recent election and its divisive campaigns, many in our community have turned to JCRC for guidance. With our history convening people from across the political spectrum to meaningfully discuss challenging topics, we know the work will not be easy. For the several weeks surrounding Hanukah we will be highlighting these torchbearers of liberty in our community whose inspiring work assures a just society and a secure Jewish future.

“There are many small candles lit in the world, many people doing good work in creative and imaginative ways, tending to the ner tamid, keeping the light of hope alive." -- Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. ACT NOW to preserve civility, democracy and justice.

Torchbearer: Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay

In recent weeks, the local immigrant and refugee community is facing fears of deportation, hate crimes, families divided and of being ostracized or imprisoned. Pediatricians and clinics serving immigrants and low-income patients report rising anxiety and panic attacks among even very young patients. At the same time, the world is reeling from a refugee crisis of historic proportions. There is need at home to help quell the fears and more need than ever to ‘welcome the stranger’ to our shores. That’s why the first torchbearer in our Bear a Torch campaign is Jewish Family & Community Services (JFCS) East Bay.

Founded as “Daughters of Israel Relief Society” in 1877, JFCS East Bay has provided services to East Bay residents for more than a century. Currently the organization focuses on home care for the elderly, services for families and caregivers, and assisting Holocaust survivors and the homebound, as well as refugee resettlement.

This work is particularly important here, because California has taken in more Syrian refugees this year than any other U.S. state. According to reports, the state resettled 1,454 Syrian refugees during the 2016 fiscal year, up from only 179 last year.

Earlier this year, JFCS Executive Director Avi Rose shared on KQED radio his thoughts about the difficult times in which we’re living, “…now is the time for us to act on the best of our values, not the worst of our fears. We can volunteer our time. We can donate our money. We can collect household goods for new Americans who arrive with next to nothing. We can open our hearts and homes, fostering an atmosphere of welcome and support. We can stand up for sensible and compassionate public policies. This is a defining moment for us as individuals and as a country. Let’s take it as an opportunity to be our best selves.”

Underlining the organization’s determination to serve as an instrument of Tikkun Olam is its motto: Compassion in Action. Commitment to All. During WWII, JFCS East Bay helped resettle Jewish refugees fleeing Europe. Later, it worked with Soviet Jewish refugees. More recently it has turned its attention to non-Jewish refugees.

“We found it to be a strong and powerful reflection of the values upon which this agency was founded. Even if the refugees are not Jewish, this is very Jewish work,” Rose told the J Weekly last year.

As part of its important work, JFCS East Bay will host “A Narrow Bridge: Post-Election Briefing on Refugee & Immigrant Issues” on Sunday, December 18, with community partners, including JCRC. This event covering issues facing refugees and immigrants in the wake of the presidential election will take place at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette.

Click here for additional resources.

A Narrow Bridge: Post-Election Briefing on Refugee & Immigrant Issues

Sunday, December 18, 2016
Temple Isaiah, 945 Risa Road, Lafayette

Jewish Framework for Welcoming Refugees, Rabbi Judy Shanks, Temple Isaiah
Refugees & the U.S. Refugee Program, Amy Weiss, JFCS East Bay Director of Refugee & Immigrant Services, joined by a refugee.
Dreamers & Undocumented Immigrants, Caryn Crosthwait, JFCS East Bay Immigration Attorney, joined by a Dreamer.
Federal Executive & Legislative Issues, Speaker TBD.
Volunteering, Kathryn Winogura, JFCS East Bay Volunteer Services Manager
Giving, Avi Rose, JFCS East Bay Executive Director
Advocacy, Ilana Kaufman, JCRC Public Affairs and Civic Engagement Director, East Bay

The briefing is free and open to the public, but registration is requested:

Additional Resources

  • Concerned about the global refugee crisis? JFCS East Bay has a collection of tips for How You Can Help Newly Arriving Refugees.
  • HIAS, the world's oldest refugee protection and resettlement organization, has also put together a guide to How You Can Help.
  • The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants also has a letter you can sign to Demand Congress Welcome Refugees and Immigrants, because “it has never been more important for our national leaders to be reminded that America keeps it promises.”
  • Muslim Community Center of East Bay (MCC) is hosting “Speaking for Ourselves: A Post-Election Lunch & Panel with Your Muslim Neighbors” on Saturday, December 10, from 12:00pm-2:30pm in Pleasanton, CA.
  • Catholic Charities, a nonprofit organization serving those in need in San Francisco, Marin & San Mateo Counties, also has an important Refugee and Immigrant Services segment.
  • Refugee Transitions has been creating education, family engagement, and community leadership opportunities for the San Francisco Bay Area's refugee, immigrant, and asylee newcomer communities since 1982.
  • Established in 2007, SF-CAIRS is a coalition of organizations serving the San Francisco Bay Area asylee, immigrant and refugee community and its service providers.
  • The East Bay Refugee Forum (EBRF) is a coalition of over 30 agencies serving refugees, asylees, SIVs and others.

Are we missing any critical service providers, important aid activities or events? Please email them to for inclusion.