Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek (CBSRZ) in Chester will host a Syrian family, Haitham and Shiyam Dalati, at 7:30pm Shabbat services on Friday, January 26, 2018. Reception and discussion will follow services and the public is welcome to attend.
Here is their story. The Dalatis owned a villa in Homs, Syria. Haitham had worked as a lab technician in health clinics, mostly in Saudi Arabia, for more than twenty years. Their home was destroyed in the siege by Syrian troops between 2011 and 2014, and they, along with their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren, fled to Lebanon. There, all eight family members applied for entry to the United States. In February of 2017, in a departure to the norm, arrangements were made for the oldest family members, Haitham (64) and Shiyam (58), to come to the United States, instead of the younger ones first. This was thought to be only a temporary separation, but President Trump's travel ban intervened, and while the grandparents tried to adjust to life in New Haven, with help from Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS), the rest of the family continue to await further word in an agonizingly slow process.
Haitham and Shiyam have tried to make the best of what they have. The financial allowances from IRIS (and the federal government) have run their course. It has been difficult to find suitable work for a 64-year-old immigrant with an impressive resume, but Haitham has recently become employed at a senior living community, and Shiyam learns English (and is improving every week).
Lary Bloom and Suzanne Levine, two members of CBSRZ who live in New Haven, have introduced them to the local culture by taking them to museum exhibits, tailgating at a Yale game, to restaurants that serve food familiar to them - and some that is not (including lobster at Lobster Landing). Mostly, they have shared meals at home, with Shiyam sometimes cooking her specialties.
Lary Bloom comments: “For Suzanne and me, the experience of being ‘cultural companions’ to them has been greatly rewarding and frustrating. We have learned a great deal from them even as they have learned from us. We know much more about Ramadan, real life in the Middle East, the history of the Arab culture, and its traditions. We are of course deeply disappointed that we have not been able to deliver the bulk of what they need, even though that's IRIS's job, not ours. We can't help but become passionately involved. It's inevitable with all IRIS cultural companions. The fact that our congregation is interested in meeting them has moved them both.”
Come learn more! Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek is located at 55 E. Kings Highway, Chester, CT. For more information, visit www.cbsrz.org or call 860-526-8920.