Western Massachusetts Jewish Organization to Expand Refugee Resettlement Work from Springfield to Pittsfield

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PRESS RELEASE
JEWISH FAMILY SERVICE OF WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS

Contact: Maxine J. Stein, President & CEO, (413) 737-2601 or m.stein@jfswm.org

Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts builds on 45+ year legacy helping refugees start new lives

Springfield – Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts (JFSWM) announced today that it will expand its refugee resettlement work to a second site, in Pittsfield, building on over 100 years of serving local families, and more than 45 years of working with refugees.

“Jewish Family Service has been helping refugees to build new lives in Western Massachusetts for more than 40 years. We have been incredibly fortunate to have the strong support of the community in this work,” said Maxine Stein, CEO of Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts.

“Each year, we resettle more than 240 refugees through our Springfield office. Last year alone, we helped more than 80 families begin new lives in safety and freedom in the Springfield area. By expanding to Pittsfield, we will be able to help welcome an additional 50 refugees this year,” Stein explained.

The U.S. State Department approved Pittsfield as a sub-site early this month. The exact date when resettlement in Pittsfield will begin is still being determined. The Berkshire County city took in scores of Jewish refugees from the Former Soviet Union in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
“With global displacement at record highs, there has never been a greater need for the important work agencies like JFSWM do to welcome refugees who are making a new start in the United States,” said Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS, the global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees. HIAS partners with local agencies across the U.S., including JFSWM, in its mission to protect and resettle refugees.

“JFSWM has been our partner in resettlement for over 40 years, and we have seen the refugees it serves build on the initial welcome they receive to become flourishing members of the community—finding jobs, doing well in school, and becoming part of the fabric of the community. We are thrilled that, through this additional site, more refugee families in need of a safe place to rebuild their lives will have the benefit, not only of the hardworking and experienced team at JFSWM, but the welcoming and inclusive environment in Western Massachusetts,” Hetfield said.

Stein added, “Newly arrived refugees need a safe, welcoming community in which they can rebuild their lives and contribute to the local economy. Pittsfield is an ideal location for resettlement because of its strong local industries, employment opportunities and low housing costs, all of which will make it easier for refugees to quickly attain self-sufficiency.”

"Acts of violence perpetrated on the Syrian people are incomprehensible to those of us who live in a protected and secure nation," Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer said in a statement. "I believe strongly, both personally and professionally, in our obligation to respond to this humanitarian crisis. And, I am committed to ensuring that the citizens of Pittsfield have ample opportunity to learn more about this endeavor and to providing a welcoming environment to those from Syria who we may someday call friend and neighbor."
Tricia Farley-Bouvier, State representative said: "I'm pleased to see that this process is moving forward. The people of Pittsfield have made it clear that they eager to open their hearts and welcome new neighbors to our community. I'm particularly pleased that we are partnering with Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts who has many years of professional experience in refugee resettlement."

There will be a series of community meetings, neighborhood meetings and smaller conversations with Pittsfield residents to further engage and address questions that people may have. The first community meeting will be hosted by the Mayor Tyer’s office, State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and State Senator Adam Hinds on February 13 at Herberg Middle School at 6pm.

Last year, Massachusetts welcomed 1,734 refugees from around the world. 241 of those were welcomed by JFSWM, in partnership with HIAS.