The idea behind Welcome the Stranger

Welcome the Stranger is a simulation to get participants thinking about immigration from a historical and values perspective. While interactive, the event is scripted for moderators so that people around the country can host events after a tele-training with HIAS staff.

The simulation that we created for this event is as follows: as participants come into the room, they are asked to sit in the time period that represents their own immigration history. There are time period cards placed around the room and individuals sit near others whose families came to the U.S. at that time.

The moderators start the event by walking around the room explaining what immigration was like in the United States during each time period generally and for the Jewish population. Participants are invited to share their own immigration story with the group.

Welcome the Stranger utilizes moderators, participants, as well as multi-media to convey immigration themes and ideas. The event kit comes with a 30-minute Welcome the Stranger DVD that includes real stories of immigrants who came into the country without documentation, words of wisdom from Rabbi David Saperstein, and a warm welcome from HIAS President Gideon Aronoff.

The event is important in that it starts educating and mobilizing the Jewish grassroots around immigration reform in advance of the next immigration bill before Congress. Once mobilized we will have a strong community ready to make calls to Congress in support of humane reform.


LA Pilot Event- October 2008

On October 7th, 2008 HIAS Young Leaders Los Angeles hosted a third pilot of the Welcome the Stranger event.

Dahlia Pirnouz shares "It was a great opportunity to hear about other people's immigration experience to the United States. I was born in LA but my family came from Shiraz, Iran. Hearing other Young Leaders share their immigration experiences from Russia and Argentina made me realize the similarities of their families experiences in terms of integrating into life in the United States. During our pilot program, we started a discussion regarding experiences of discrimination in Los Angeles for immigrants and children of immigrants. This was extremely meaningful as I learned how my peers in the Latino and Russian community sometimes feel like an outsider even though they were born here in LA."

If you are interested in bringing this pilot program to your LA organization please contact Leah Weiner, HIAS Young Leaders Coordinator at 310-927-0395

NYC Pilot Event- August 2008

On August 19, 2008 HIAS Young Leaders New York hosted a second pilot of the Welcome the Stranger event. The event sparked some poweful discussion and insightful feedback. Young Leaders who attended this event plan to run the program at various Hillels in the New York City area in 2008 and 2009.

Washington, DC Pilot Event- July, 2008

On July 1, 2008, HIAS Young Leaders DC hosted the first pilot Welcome the Stranger event. 44 individuals attended the event at 6th and I Synagogue and the two moderators did a fabulous job leading the program. Our evaluation results showed that people were generally convinced to take more concrete action in support of humane immigration reform in the future.