Welcoming the Stranger
On November 18th, I had the privilege of representing BuildaBridge International as a teaching artist during HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) Pennsylvania’s 10th Annual Refugee Thanksgiving Dinner. This event gathers recent refugee arrivals to the city of Philadelphia as a chance for them to experience something so predominantly American: Thanksgiving. The dinner was filled with a traditional array of Thanksgiving food and celebration, allowing these people of such eclectic descent and origins, to feel a sense of belonging within a new and somewhat alienating culture. The Mayor of Philadelphia, Mayor Jim Kenney, was at the event to speak about the constant nature of America’s acceptance and integration of peoples from all cultures, backgrounds, and ideologies. He talked about the original pilgrims coming from a land of discrimination, comparing their arrival into the open hands of the indigenous peoples of America, those peoples who offered them food in times of starvation and warmth against the encroaching cold. I was inspired and moved by the collection of many other aspects of cultural community during the event, including art, dancing, music, excellent food, and other bonding activities. My role at the event allowed me to interact with young refugees, joining them in painting and decorating ceramic planting pots, a symbol of their future growth here in the city of Philadelphia. I hope that the message of our nation’s humble beginnings are reaffirmed in our acceptance of these many people looking towards a land of opportunity, community, and family.