Video: Where will you find common ground in your community?

Welcoming America | July 19, 2017

 

The divides among Americans may seem vast these days, but Welcoming America believes that in many communities, there is a very different narrative that should be lifted up: Stories of diverse people finding common ground and making an impact in each other’s lives.

When a Jewish couple in Atlanta, GA, met a Kurdish Muslim refugee couple from Syria, the unexpected happened. They forged a strong friendship and strengthened the bonds of connection in their community.

“We met Hasan and Rania through our friend Dr. Heval Kelli and volunteered to help them learn English because we felt helpless with everything that was going on in the world. My husband, Adam, and I wanted to do something proactive. We started coming to their house every Tuesday night to work with Rania on her driver’s license test and Hasan on job interview skills. As our relationship progressed, they wanted to spend less time studying and more time seeing Atlanta, so we started going out into the world. We don’t think of them as a volunteer activity, we just think of them as friends,” said Joanie Twersky. 

The friendship between the two couples has evolved into a larger social circle and regularly involves dinner parties, playing soccer, going to movies, bowling, and much more. Joanie and Adam even threw Rania and Hasan a Green Card party earlier this year.

“When I was growing up, we still heard first-hand accounts of the Holocaust including stories of non-Jewish people who risked their lives to hide Jews. I often wondered to myself – if the situation was reversed would I put myself at risk, would I put my whole family at risk in order to protect someone else when I could just do nothing and remain safe? Thankfully, I have never been faced with that decision. But we make another form of that decision every day when we watch the news and it’s overwhelmingly and sad and ultimately doesn’t affect us. We have to make a decision about whether to turn it off and disconnect and go about the rest of our day or act. And that’s as tough a decision, because it’s really easy to do nothing.

If I could ask one thing of people, it would be not to disconnect when it is hard. Your greatest influence is always going to be local, in your own community. Chances are there are people right there that are going through more than you know. And you have the ability to be present in their lives and have a really rich relationship that can make a difference for both of you,” said Joanie Twersky.

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