Many watched the scenes at the Kabul airport with horror and despair as thousands of Afghans fled their country in the wake of the Taliban takeover. At Hinenu: The Baltimore Justice Shtiebl, staff and clergy, like at other Jewish organizations, were not content to simply watch.
Prior to the U.S. pullout, the synagogue was notified by one of their members that a friend of a friend was seeking a fiscal sponsor for an application for humanitarian parole for their family in Afghanistan, said Michele Levy, board president at Hinenu, in an email. In response, the Baltimore synagogue organized a CauseVox page to raise the $4,025 necessary for the Department of Homeland Security to process and review the family’s applications and hopefully get them out of the country.
This Afghan family is a multigenerational, seven-member family, which includes young children, according to the fundraising page. Two men in the family have previously worked with the U.S. government. As a result, their family home has been targeted and searched multiple times by the Taliban, forcing the family to split up and go into hiding. For their safety, Hinenu was not able to provide either the family’s names or any photo- graphs of them. No new information on the family’s status was available by the time the U.S. finished evacuating American citizens and Afghan allies from the country.
The fee to submit a humanitarian parole application is $575 per person, according to the fundraising page. As of Aug. 30, the page had raised $7,893, exceeding their goal by well over $3,000. If the family’s applications were approved by Homeland Security and the family was successfully able to leave the country, any excess funds will be used to support the new arrivals, said Levy. In the event their applications were denied, the remaining funds will be contributed to refugee resettlement organizations.
“Hinenu intends to support the family upon their hopeful arrival with food, clothing and supplies for the children, and support as they get on their feet, and anticipate needing to raise additional funds for this ongoing process,” Levy said.
The pro bono immigration attorneys handling the family’s case had filed for expedited review, Levy said. However, Hinenu had little information about the timeline of the application process or how likely the family was to be approved.
“We do know that the Taliban has already searched their home multiple times,” Levy said. “We pray for their protection, for swift approval and for their safe travel.”
For those looking to support the Afghan people in the United States, Hinenu Rabbi Ariana Katz recommends reaching out to HIAS or the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
In addition, The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore has set up a fund to help with national resettlement efforts.
Katz noted that faith communities, both by virtue of their collective resources and by traditions that compel them to act in such circumstances, are well poised for this type of work.
“Leviticus 19:36 reminds us ‘The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love them as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt,’” Katz said. “We have a collective responsibility to show up in whatever ways we can for a little more justice, a little more generosity.
“We must mobilize our privileges — being a part of large Jewish communities with financial resources, access to health care and knowledge of navigating governmental and civic systems and relationships, to offer help to those in need,” Katz added. “At this time of year, when faced with unfathomable tragedy in Afghanistan as well as in our own city and country, the call to act is clear.”