Saturday, March 24th, 2018

In honor of World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day 2014 2In honor of World Refugee Day, Gulf Coast’s CEO Rochelle Tatrai-Ray had a letter published in the Tampa Bay Times today.

Today, World Refugee Day, brings awareness to the plight of more than 15 million refugees worldwide. I have seen firsthand the struggles of refugees from various backgrounds who have been lucky enough to resettle in Tampa Bay.

Walk up to the sushi counter in most any Publix supermarket in the area and your food is likely to be prepared by someone from Myanmar (formerly Burma) who was a victim of torture at the hands of his government before he was able to escape. A local family struggled for years to rebuild their lives before they approached the supermarket chain with the idea to develop sushi counters. Now this family trains and places Burmese sushi chefs in Publix supermarkets in the bay area.

We saw this same spirit in the waves of Jewish refugees and their descendants during the many years that Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services, in partnership with HIAS, the global Jewish refugee organization, helped those persecuted from the Soviet Union, Germany and then Russia.

The United States has been the world leader in welcoming refugees. Today, we accept more than all other countries combined. These policies are what create diverse communities like ours on the Gulf Coast. But today, as conflicts in places like Syria and Sudan create so many refugees, our system is mired in bureaucracy.

You can help. In honor of World Refugee Day, call your senators and congressman and ask them to support the Refugee Protection Act, which would eliminate onerous and unnecessary red tape that keeps qualified refugees waiting in limbo for approval to resettle.

Rochelle Tatrai-Ray, president and CEO, Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services Inc., Clearwater

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