I read with interest the article on the recent resettlement of Raisa Sirota, a Russian refugee from St. Petersburg (“Russian emigre, 83, ends long path to freedom,” Aug. 4). The article certainly served to make the public more aware of the fact that there are, indeed, Jewish refugees who continue to flee the former Soviet Union with the help of HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.
What the article neglected to point out, however, is that once a refugee arrives in the United States, it is the responsibility of a local resettlement agency to ensure that the new arrival makes a smooth and successful transition to America. In the case of Raisa, it was the Jewish Vocational Service of MetroWest that assumed the responsibility for her resettlement in New Jersey.
Raisa arrived in the U.S. on April 7, 2010. On April 8 she came to JVS; on April 9, JVS representatives were conducting a home visit with Raisa to determine her service needs and to provide her with information about such things as our medical system, how to choose a doctor, personal and public safety, finances, and budgeting. Even before arrival, JVS formulated the initial reception plan with her sponsor, made housing arrangements, and confirmed arrival information.
Among the services that Raisa received from JVS were assistance with applying for a Social Security card, scheduling appointments for health screenings and mandatory follow up, arranging referrals to social service agencies, providing assistance with document preparation, counseling on the benefits she was entitled to receive, follow-up with a variety of agencies to assure that these benefits were pending, assistance in selecting affordable housing, and referral to English classes. JVS staff members remain in contact with Raisa at least once a week to problem solve and provide any additional information that is needed.
With support from the United Jewish Communities of MetroWest, JVS continues to resettle newly-arrived Jewish refugees like Raisa who flee to this country from the former Soviet Union and Iran, and additionally provides case management and citizenship education to older refugees who arrived in years past. With funding from the State of New Jersey and the federal government, the agency offers English as a Second Language classes, vocational counseling, job placement, and naturalization assistance to emigres from around the world.
Emigre resettlement is just one of the many services JVS provides on a regular basis to nearly 18,000 NJ residents from age 14 to over 100, including people with disabilities, the frail elderly, and the middle income unemployed, “helping people help themselves” to become self-sufficient and productive.
For more information about JVS and our many services to the community, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 973-674-6330, ext. 284, or visit www.jvsnj.org.
Nancy T. Fisher
JVS Assistant Executive Director
Education and Training