Grandchildren of Holocaust survivors send a message to Afghan immigrants

Every box of food leaving the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, on Wednesday was stamped with the words “With love from the Jewish community.” A large delivery truck loaded with falafel chips, rice, tomato sauce, fruits and vegetables left early in the afternoon, bound for Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, in Fort Dix, New Jersey.

The food was not for the United States Army, but for those who fled military might. The effort was organized by the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, in solidarity with refugees who recently fled the Islamist Taliban in Afghanistan.

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Refugee camp in Baghdad district in Afghanistan's capital now scored in October

Afghan refugees in a tent camp

(Photo: AFP)

The effort had taken weeks to complete, according to Masbia Soup Kitchen Network CEO Alexander Rapaport. But army chaplains at the Fort Dix base only secured a warehouse to store the food on Tuesday.

“It’s not just about the food. It is the message. We believe, as grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, that we must welcome refugees, that we must welcome and understand the plight of people fleeing atrocities, ”Rapaport said.

“There are more than 250 small synagogues here. Each of them is named after a different city in Eastern Europe that our people had to flee from, ”said Rapaport, who runs the food donation network that has received requests for assistance, both within and outside the communities. beans in New York City. will increase significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rapaport is a prominent member of the large haredi or ultra-Orthodox community of Borough Park, where a considerable portion of the Jewish population are children or grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. In addition to housing, the world’s largest Jewish community outside of Israel, Borough Park and its surrounding neighborhoods boast around 15 languages ​​spoken, due to significant Arab, Asian, Pakistani and Haitian communities.

Previously, Rapaport had partnered with Rockland County Legislator Aron Weider and others this summer to ship two 40-foot containers containing non-perishable food and hygiene items to Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake there. They were willing to do it again for the refugees from Afghanistan.

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Boxes of food ready for delivery in the Masbia dining room in the Borogh Park neighborhood of Brookly, New YorkBoxes of food ready for delivery in the Masbia dining room in the Borogh Park neighborhood of Brookly, New York

Boxes of food ready for delivery at the Masbia dining room in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York

(Photo: The Media Line)

Rapaport, along with Weider, personally sealed and painted the food boxes with messages of Jewish solidarity. While Masbia’s products are kosher, the boxes heading to Fort Dix were loaded with halal food, in recognition of the dietary needs of many of the Afghan refugees.

“I grew up with four grandparents who are Holocaust survivors. Three of them survived Auschwitz. And growing up, I heard a lot about my grandparents’ experience in these camps and how grateful they were to the United States of America for being able to resettle. ”Weider, who lives about 40 miles north of New York City, said.

Weider said images that appeared on television in August during the fall of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, of desperate Afghans trying to leave the country through the airport, spurred him to action.

“We are all sure that these refugees in New Jersey are well fed, but there is something they need and we can add. And that’s just a little heart, to tell these people that they are welcome here. And that we are a nation that will accept them. The videos of people running after these planes just broke my heart, literally broke my heart. I saw these people hanging on the plane, just trying to get here, “Weider said.

“I can only imagine that it could have been people in Jersey who were on that flight. And for them to go like a little box like this, I just hope that when they see a box that says, ‘With love from the Jewish Community,’ they will be happy with the day, and they will remember it for a long period of time and maybe their grandchildren, one day, will be here in Brooklyn, welcoming other refugees, ‘he added.

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Afghan nationals try to flee the country at Kabul airportAfghan nationals try to flee the country at Kabul airport

Afghan nationals try to flee the country at Kabul airport

(Photo: Instagram)

A Jewish serviceman in the US Army stationed at Fort Dix and who assisted with the donation effort said that more than 12,000 Afghan refugees have stayed at the base so far during the investigation process, and there are currently more than 10,000 refugees there waiting to be cleared for settlement in the US.

The source, who asked not to be named due to the lack of authorization from the army to speak to the press, said that some of the refugees reside in existing houses, while others live in a huge tent city, which has come to be known as Freedom. Village, on the 42,000 acre base. Afghans living at the base are classified as Afghan special immigrants, who supported US forces in a variety of capacities during the 20-year US presence in Afghanistan. Fort Dix is ​​one of eight bases in the United States that host Afghan refugees.

“His mood is mostly positive and hopeful. We have been in their shoes many times throughout our history, most recently after the Holocaust: penniless refugees seeking safe haven. We understand what you are going through. We will never forget the kindness they showed us in our time of need and this is our way of repaying the money, ”said the source, noting that many of the refugees will spend months, and possibly up to a year, at the base during their exams. health and safety and resettlement process.

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Refugee camp in Baghdad district in Afghanistan's capital now scored in OctoberRefugee camp in Baghdad district in Afghanistan's capital now scored in October

A refugee camp in the Badghis district of Afghanistan

(Photo: AFP)

Several other organizations have offered donations of food and goods to the refugees, the source said. Journalists are not allowed to enter base areas that host refugees.

Rapaport said he and Weider are already planning a welcome event sometime in the next week or two for a small number of Afghans who have already passed through Fort Dix and resettled in Jersey City, NJ, just across the street. of the Hudson River from the Statue of Liberty and New York City.

Rapaport’s father, Yosef, said that he and his family initially landed in Canada after fleeing Europe, and were only later accepted into the US.

“I had to sign papers saying that I am not a communist. Those were the questions they asked me then. Today, people are asking different questions, ”said the elder Rapaport, acknowledging those concerned about the possible security implications of resettling such a large number of Afghans.

“But we don’t care about your background. You are family. You are in trouble. We Jews know what it means, ”he said.

The article was written by Mike Wagenheim and reprinted with permission from The media line.

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