A few of the Iraqis have received grief counseling for their losses of loved ones during the war. “The explosions happened in front of your eyes,” recalls Suhair Al-Azawi, who wears a brown head scarf. Like many refugees, she and her family lived in Jordan while waiting to be admitted to the United States. She and her husband hope to find jobs that draw on their business and computer skills.
Though the refugees come from both sides of Iraq’s sectarian divide, JFS teacher Barbara Schreier says she’s seen no tensions in her English as a Second Language classes. “Whether they’re Sunnis or Shiites, they’re very supportive of each other,” says Schreier.
It may seem ironic that a Jewish agency is helping Muslim refugees from the Middle East. But JFS, which learned the ropes of immigration helping Jews fleeing the Soviet Union, has since helped people of many backgrounds settle here, including Somali refugees, Hurricane Katrina victims, and a handful of Zoroastrians from Iran.
[Originally published in October, 2008.]