Since 1979, newly arrived refugees, asylees, and their families have received assistance from JFS. JFS and its partners help New Americans achieve self-sufficiency and adjust to life in their new country, including the resettlement of 13 Afghan evacuee families (47 individuals) since October 2021. This work would not be possible without the hands-on assistance of our interfaith community sponsors.

Recently, we sat down with Barbara and Mark Friedman to learn about their experience as Temple Beth David of Westwood’s volunteer coordinators for JFS’s Afghan Evacuee Resettlement Program


What is a volunteer coordinator? What inspired you to take on this important role?

We wanted to help a refugee family but realized it’d be a herculean task. So we wrote a note in the temple’s weekly newsletter, and within five days, over 30 people had signed up. We oversee this group of incredible volunteers. With the help of JFS, we develop and execute an individualized resettlement plan for the family, including housing, medical, food, and personal assistance. Communication has been key. We use a group calendar to make sure that all forms of assistance are accounted for.


What would you like the community to know about the family?

They are a family of four. The father was a driver for the U.S. Army and was threatened by the Taliban. The parents are cousins (which is the case for nearly half of the marriages in Afghanistan). They have two sons: a four-year-old and a nine-month-old baby, who was born shortly before arriving in the U.S. The rest of their family is still in Afghanistan, and they worry about them and their safety. They are incredibly polite and friendly. For example, the mother offers us food every time we come over.


JFS emphasizes taking clients from crisis to stability. Could you speak about the family’s situation when they arrived and highlight some milestones on their ongoing journey to stability?

The family arrived with only five days notice. They originally stayed at an Airbnb and were nervous about leaving the house. They have since moved into a fully furnished apartment in a lovely neighborhood and are becoming more comfortable and involved with the community around them. For example, the older son attends preschool. The father was adamant that his children receive an education. The boy is engaging well with the other children and is picking up English quickly, hopefully allowing him to interpret for his family soon. Mark is teaching him to ride a bike, and as a retired pediatrician is helping ensure the kids meet their developmental milestones.

Also, the father got a job at a bakery making bagels (poetic justice for a Jewish organization). After receiving a bike through a community partner’s donation, he now rides to work. He is proud of this independence and looks forward to owning a car and driving. He often goes shopping for the family with Mark and is confident and assertive about what he buys. At first, he mainly purchased fruits, veggies, and meats. However, his taste has become more Americanized; he enjoys Pepsi, donuts, and vanilla ice cream, always making sure to buy the Friendly’s brand. Through these experiences and with the help of the volunteer team, he is gaining financial literacy, including learning how to use an ATM.


Thank you Barbara, Mark, and the entire Temple Beth David team for your incredible hands-on work and your commitment to accelerating social, academic, and health equity!