Leslie Aizenman, director of refugee and immigrant services for Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Pittsburgh, talks during “A Syrian Summit” at East Liberty Presbyterian Church Thursday.
Michael Henninger/Associated Press
Mr. Peduto last year was one of 18 mayors across the country to sign a letter to the president pledging to take in refugees.
By Madasyn Czebiniak / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
While the city of Pittsburgh might be welcoming more refugees from war-torn Syria, it is local agencies such as Jewish Family & Children’s Service and the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh that are working to make their lives here possible.
The challenges, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said, are housing and jobs.
“It’s not the city government that does this work,” Mr. Peduto said at “A Syrian Summit” Thursday night at East Liberty Presbyterian Church. “It’s the agencies ... they look at those two critical factors.”
After the November bombings in Paris, more than 200 people called Mr. Peduto’s office to ask what they could do to support Syrian refugees.
Three months later, community members are still asking what they can do to help.
Dozens of people attended the meeting, sponsored by the Southwest PA division of the National Association of Social Workers, to ask Mr. Peduto and other speakers what Pittsburgh is doing for Syrian refugees and to advocate for them to live here. Four families already do.
“One had a baby [Thursday] morning, and our case worker was there till 5 this morning screaming ‘Push!’ in Arabic,” said Leslie Aizenman, director of refugee and immigrant services at Jewish Family & Children’s Service.
The United States has taken in about 2,500 Syrian refugees since the conflict there began in 2011. According to the Pennsylvania Refugee Resettlement Program, 112 came here last year, with another 53 arriving between Oct. 1 and the end of 2015. The Obama administration expects to take in at least 10,000 in the federal fiscal year that began in October.
The city will be able to take 500 refugees — not just Syrians — this year, he said.
Ms. Aizenman’s agency found housing for the four Syrian families residing in Pittsburgh, and she shared with the audience what the agency does to “take people from a war zone and set them up for success in Pittsburgh.”
“This is a really fast and furious program, and the Syrian families, like all the families we’ve resettled so far, are doing very well,” Ms. Aizenman said.
“Every family has someone going to work.”
A representative of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh said her group provides English classes and youth programs and is looking to start a refugee resettlement and support program.
The Associated Press contributed. Madasyn Czebiniak: email@example.com or 412-263-1269.
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