A group of volunteers affiliated with HIAS Pennsylvania spent the first full day of Chanukah helping refugee families in South Philadelphia prepare their homes for winter.
The 38 teen and adult volunteers brought winterization kits donated by the Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia to 30 Nepalese and Burmese families who have moved to the city recently.
The volunteers were mostly from Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood. Several individuals came from Lower Merion Synagogue, an Orthodox congregation in Merion Station.
Rena Margulies, a HIAS volunteer and member of Main Line Reform, said that many of the refugees had construction experience and were more skilled at sealing windows than the volunteers.
“I wouldn’t say that we are the best army of construction workers, but our hearts were in it and we did get a lot of supplies to the refugees,” said Margulies. “Here was an opportunity for people to go in and really meet with the refugees.”
Margulies added that the day was about fulfilling the mitzvah of helping the stranger and was part of the ongoing partnership between the synagogue and HIAS, the refugee resettlement organization.
She hopes that, after being introduced to refugee families, volunteers will look for ways to help with the resettlement process on an ongoing basis and perhaps even serve as mentors to the new arrivals.