Montclair and Maplewood residents Melina Macall — a professor at William Paterson University — and Kate McCaffrey — an anthropology professor at Montclair State University— have created the Syria Supper Club to show support and solidarity with Syrian refugees who have settled in New Jersey.
A lovely dinner is prepared by one or more of the area’s new Syrian neighbors who share their traditional cooking skills in a table full of traditional Syrian food. Residents sign up to host, and/or attend the dinner, breaking bread with the family. Participants can enjoy food, conversation, and fun cultural exchange.
These meals have presented an opportunity for people who have been defined for too long as victims to share knowledge and skills unique to them, and for recipients to become partners in fundraising efforts to set them on a path of greater independence and confidence in their new lives here in New Jersey.
“We have had an outpouring of requests and comments on the program, how valuable it is to create connections between people who have lived here all their lives and their newest neighbors. How it reflects true American values” explains Macall.
However, the recent travel ban on seven Muslim-majority nations in an executive order by President Trump will have a horrible impact on the program.
“The travel ban harms children, over 50 percent of refugees worldwide are children. US policy is to prioritize vulnerable people which means many families with young children. Among the people we have met in NJ, it is more like 75 percent children,” says Macall.
She adds, “It is devastating for people already here, there is not a single family we know of who isn’t directly or indirectly impacted by this order. Nobody chose to be a refugee. Refugees need refuge, they come here for safety and shelter. This order makes those who have come here feel unwelcome, that they don’t belong.”
Now, even more so, joining the Syria Supper Club can help New Jersey’s recent refugees feel cared for. In addition to attending a dinner, you can volunteer to help these families integrate into the community and support these agencies who have filed legal challenges to the executive order:
- American Civil Liberties Union
- The International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center
- The National Immigration Law Center