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With Urdu poetry, Syrian sweets, Phoenix refugees share immigrant culture

July 5th
With Urdu poetry, Syrian sweets, Phoenix refugees share immigrant culture figure
Socially Conscious and Culturally Sensitive

Article in Jewish News of Greater Phoenix

Jeff Kronenfeld | Staff Writer

Excerpt from story:

Manning one table was Susan Assadi, who founded and runs the Safed House with her husband, Sami, who is a Palestinian refugee. The nonprofit provides a welcoming and culturally sensitive space for refugees and recent immigrants to share their stories.

Assadi’s decision to work with refugees was influenced by her family’s brand of socially conscious Judaism, in addition to her husband’s experience as a refugee. Her grandmother’s efforts helping Jewish refugees in Paris emigrate to the U.S. in the 1930s was another important source of inspiration, as was her own parents’ work with nonprofit agencies and foundations.

She was excited to be able to connect with so many organizations serving refugee and immigrant communities, in addition to connecting with so many refugees who could potentially benefit from her services, such as role-playing activities designed to identify and fill in gaps in knowledge of American customs and social norms.

“There needs to be a little bit of coaching on cultural sensitivity training,” Assadi said. “The Syrian men, a lot of them are Muslim and don’t want to shake hands. We say this may be awkward for you culturally, but let’s try to help you get past that.”

Early in the week, Safed House announced the winners of its annual essay contest, which offers refugees and recent immigrants high school age or below an opportunity to share their experiences of coming to the U.S. and the struggles to adapt once they arrived. First prize went to Alaa Alotham from Syria, with second place going to Poung Change from Myanmar.

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Photograph by Jeff Kronenfeld