Why I Give Back: Miriam

For the Giving Back issue of the Jewish Living Delaware Magazine, several of our volunteers reflected on why they give back and the impact that volunteering has had on them and the lives of those they serve. Miriam Sigler shares her thoughts below.

When I was 15 and visiting cousins in Israel, my uncle hatched the idea of camping through Europe. My aunt and five cousins loaded up their VW bus onto a ship in Haifa and disembarked in Greece. Weeks later, we were in France.

Gratitude does not come close to describing that experience. Travel is fun when you know you’ll be returning home. It accelerates your learning and gives you a deep appreciation of other cultures. Travel is frightening when you have fled an untenable situation, have no certainty where you’ll wind up, whether you’ll be separated from family, or whether you’ll be safer than where you came from.

So, I give back because I am beyond grateful. Not having to want for food, shelter or love is something all humans deserve but not all have.

I can’t solve forced migration, but I can be a part of the solution. In 2012, HIASPA invited me to be its liaison for congregational support. I educate my congregants on the need for safe refuge, and how to support this effort. HIASPA is an affiliate of Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), which is the oldest refugee resettlement agency in the USA.

In 2016, I joined Jewish Family Services of Delaware’s Refugee Integration Support Effort (RISE). Through a partnership with Literacy Delaware, I taught English to African refugees and helped with resume writing, financial literacy, setting up passwords, and connecting clients to transportation.

In early 2020, I was selected as a Spanish interpreter for the HIAS Border Fellows program. I interpret between asylum seekers and lawyers. A particularly detailed case involving a Honduran family fleeing gang violence reminded me that my problems are tame.

My grandfathers escaped ethnic cleansing in Russia and Poland, making it possible for me to live a comfortable, safe life.

So, I give back.

If you would like to volunteer with JFS Delaware and make a difference in the lives of those we serve, click here. You can also donate to JFS Delaware here. To view the Give Back article in Jewish Living Delaware, click here.