WGXC-90.7 FM

Afghan evacuees coming to Western Massachusetts

Dec 30, 2021 12:30 pm

Danny Jin reports in The Berkshire Eagle that 15 Afghan evacuees have moved into Berkshire County, and another 16 more are coming by the end of January. Jewish Family Services of Western Massachusetts is ready, having resettled many Jewish refugees from the former Soviet Union in Berkshire County during the 1980s and 1990s. And Jewish Family Services teamed with elected officials and community partners in 2016 to resettle refugees from Syria and Iraq. Those plans were scuttled in 2017 when President Donald Trump cut refugee admissions and banned Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. for several months. “We were about to launch a robust Berkshires program when the presidential administration changed, and the immigration policies changed,” said Maxine Stein, president and CEO of Jewish Family Services of Western Massachusetts. “And then the situation in Afghanistan pops up, but even before that we already had started engaging in the hopes that the Berkshires might be interested in trying this again.” But there is already an affordable housing shortage in Western Massachusetts and throughout the Hudson Valley. Jewish Family Services continues to look for affordable three-bedroom apartments or larger, and some Afghan evacuees will stay temporarily at a home in Williamstown through June, while other families will have permanent housing in the Pittsfield area. The group is working with the AlKhalil Islamic Center in Pittsfield, and attempting to integrate the newcomers into the community. “You can go into a community and say, ‘We are resettling here,’ but that’s not the way that we want to do it,” said Maxine Stein, president and CEO of Jewish Family Services of Western Massachusetts. “We really want to engage with the community and make sure it is not just your agenda but their agenda as well.” Read more about this story in The Berkshire Eagle.