While I was recuperating from my knee injury, my father-in-law cautioned me against driving people in my car. In case of an accident, any of my refugees could sue me, even if I’m not at fault– and that would be one way to emulate American custom! When I questioned HIAS about their insurance policy, they confirmed that they only had secondary coverage, meaning I’m not covered by their plan.
Since recovering, I’m been wondering how I should proceed, if I’m not to resume the work that I’d been doing on behalf of the refugees. Yesterday, I had my meeting at the HIAS office. I told of my confusion that my efforts to reach out to the refugees have not resulted in any deepening relationships. Don’t they value having an American Friend? It’s a cultural difference, said the Social Worker. They think of us as the Government, said the Director of Development. Me, a representative of the U.S. government!? I declined to take the Foreign Service exam while in college because I couldn’t endorse all of our country’s polices, specially overseas. I recall that when my daughter and I used to volunteer for the Jewish Relief Agency, which delivers monthly parcels of food to the poor, we were debriefed thus: many of the clients in the northeast speak only Russian, so we’re to identify ourselves as “Chabad.” No, I’m not a practicing Chabad Jew and I will not identify as such.
The upshot of the meeting was that I was offered the opportunity to write a feature for the new website to be launched in September, in which I’ll interview the different people associated with HIAS— clients, staff, board members, and volunteers. I could also lead acculturation workshops, expanded from the present single session to a series of weekly sessions, for each new family. Or I could return to working with one family at a time. But once the family becomes busy with work and school, it’s hard for me to find a time to be with them, as I’m only available during the school day. In a role reversal, it is my college-graduate daughter who is teaching me to set limits on my time.