Keneseth Israel Welcomes Iraqi Family through Refugee Resettlement Project

By Elsbeth Haymon
Congregation Keneseth Israel

Since June 7 when they arrived from a refugee camp in Turkey, the Battah family, originally from Iraq, has seen lots of change and progress. Sabeeha and her five boys arrived at Lehigh Valley International Airport to a group of over 40 very excited and enthusiastic volunteers from Congregation Keneseth Israel, Temple Beth El, Temple Shirat Shalom, The Barn and other organizations. Sabeeha’s sons are: Ali age 21, Hayder age 19, Sajjad age 16, Ammar age 5 and Jaafar age 3.

Hayder and Sajjad are enrolled in high school and Jaafar has enrolled in the JCC preschool. The education committee members continue to work weekly with the high school boys on their schoolwork and English skills. Ali, who has hearing and speech issues, is learning to speak and to use his assistive device and is also receiving support. The process of enrolling Ammar in an intermediate unit early intervention program has begun.

The medical committee continues to support Ammar and Ali with their therapy appointments. Ammar has received additional assistive equipment.

The housing committee has begun a search for a three-bedroom duplex in Northampton. The family is able to afford $1,100 a month for rent and utilities, using money they have saved, income from Hayder’s job, and from father Hussein in Iraq. The donations committee has begun again to consider what is needed to furnish a home. Some creative fundraising ideas are in development.

On Oct. 27, the Battah family attended Friday night services at Keneseth Israel. They were overwhelmed by the warm welcome they received. Rabbi Seth, Cantor Jeff and Karen Berta chose lovely and appropriate music and prayers. Rabbi Seth included Sue Yoder, pastor at The Barn, who read the V’ahavta in English. Rachel Cubelis sang a special song about coming to America. The committee was invited to the bimah for Aleinu and Kiddush.

Abbas Khalaf, Sabeeha’s brother-in-law and an American citizen sponsoring the Battah family, was able to share the journey that brought them all to the Lehigh Valley. He expressed his and his sister-in-law’s appreciation for all that KI and its partners in the resettlement project are doing for them. 

Our committee of support for this wonderful family continues to grow and we welcome volunteers. Contact me at or Maryann Snyder at to learn more.


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