I am social action chairperson at Congregation Agudath Israel in Caldwell and was gratified by Johanna Ginsberg’s article about Victor Salama, executive director of First Friends, which described the critical work of that fine organization (“An important ‘first’ contact for the undocumented,” July 11). Agudath Israel has been a participating member of the Northern New Jersey Sanctuary Coalition (NNJSC) for the past five-and-a-half years. NNJSC has a close working relationship with First Friends and has accepted a number of referrals from First Friends of released detainees seeking asylum. NNJSC provides financial support, housing, and a myriad of other services to asylum seekers once they become clients of the agency.
Moreover, congregants of Agudath Israel have already hosted three asylum seekers — from Togo, Yemen, and Sudan, and referred by First Friends — providing them with a supportive environment thanks to the generous assistance of many in our congregational family. Support has included, in addition to room and board, medical and professional assistance, transportation, networking with government agencies, vocational training, ESL, recreation, and companionship. As a result, these asylum seekers were able to achieve financial independence and have become contributing members of American society.
Two of our congregants are members of the NNJSC board, and another congregant is a volunteer for First Friends. We ask our fellow congregations to join us in this extremely worthwhile endeavor of