Religious leaders and congregants from different faith communities around the MetroWest area formed in 2017 the Metrowest Interfaith Dialogue Project. We attempt to bring together members of our congregations and communities and the larger public in the interfaith dialogue of life, religious experience, justice, theology, and spirituality. As religious leaders and advocates, we seek to foster the truth of our oneness as a humanity, as well as provide space for holding our differences together with reverence.
One way we do this is by bringing the power of our collective interfaith voice to bear on the issues facing the larger communities in which we serve. In December 2022 we began plans to gather volunteers from our different faith communities. They include our Muslim friends from Peace Islands Institute, The NEFAJ Islamic Center in Milford, Temple Beth Torah, The Vedanta Society of Boston (Hindu), Guru Ram Das Ashram and Gurdwara (Sikh), Baha'i, and our Protestant and Catholic neighbors.
Since December 2012, 28 people from various religious communities and elsewhere joined us to help outfit apartments for incoming Ukrainian refugees in collaboration with Jewish Family Services, and to help create a new home for Ukrainians fleeing war. Susan Nolan, Rabbi Mimi Micner, and Fr. Carl Chudy of our interfaith network coordinates the committee and the work they do. Committee members offer their gifts and enthusiasm as we gathered to get to know one another and to begin to organize ourselves. We were not sure when the first family would come but hoped to build up a furniture and housewares inventory so we would be ready when they were able to arrive.
A number of our members fundraised in their own religious communities, soliciting donations for gift cards, and other items. Other volunteered to pick up furniture and houseware donations, as well as purchase necessary items themselves. The enthusiasm of all was truly inspiring. As we worked to prepare ourselves, we waited for our first family to arrive. Finally, in April, we received news that a young couple, without children, would arrive in the beginning of May 2023. We had friends from the Muslim communities of Peace Islands Institute, St. Michael's Episcopal Church, Christ the King Lutheran Church, Our Lady of Family Shrine, St. Mary's Catholic Church, Temple Beth Torah, and the Baha'i community.
We had youth from St. Michael's Episcopal Church come and clean some of the furniture we were storing for refugee families. Others came to hand pick what furniture would be taken to the new apartment, and another group who rented a U Haul truck and carry it to the apartment in Framingham. Through every step of the way, our liaison from Jewish Family Services, Sarah Leacu, would assist us with resources and the information we needed to do the work. Carrying in furniture, installing cable television for the first time, putting together the bed, gathering tables, lamps, and chairs. We had another group who did initial food shopping, providing sets of dishes and pots and pans, utensils and other items for the kitchen and bathroom.
On the evening of Monday, May 8, Juliia arrived from the airport, lost luggage and tired, to see her new home. Her case worker and others would continue to assist her with many things beyond that evening. But, for the first time, arriving at her new home, she came into the apartment overwhelmed and happy. She embraced both Susan and I and thanked us for all our friends did for her. Rabbi Mimi, made a delicious lasagna for her first meal in her home. Susan and I left that evening tired, happy, and talking of our next housing project for a new refugee family.