Nathaniel in Europe/Israel - Greetings from Vienna!
Posted by Nathaniel Berman on Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 13:50 pm
This is part of a series of blogs by Nathaniel Berman, as he reports on his travels to HIAS' operations in Austria, Ukraine, and Israel, as he joins HIAS' Board of Directors on the 2010 Europe/Israel Mission.
Yesterday we visited HIAS' office in Vienna, which serves as an Overseas Processing Entity (OPE), providing services such as a cultural exchange program to prepare refugees for life in the U.S. For instance, one of their programs teaches refugees how to open a bank account in the U.S.
We then visited the U.S. Consulate, the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the local offices of the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), which provides services to the Jewish Iranian refugees processed at the HIAS OPE. At JDC, we met with local applicants at various stages of the resettlement process. Each applicant explained the religious discrimination that they faced in Iran and their appreciation for HIAS’ efforts to help them build better lives for themselves in the U.S. While the average processing time is down to 4 to 5 months from 4 to 5 years, several refugees still expressed frustration with the waiting time and that they were anxious to reach the U.S.
Finally, we met up with a local rabbi who gave us a tour of the Jewish applicant housing in Vienna. Since all applicants to the U.S. Resettlement Program are responsible for securing their own housing during their stay in Vienna, this rabbi connects Jewish applicants to housing while they are awaiting resettlement in the U.S.
After an incredible dinner at the Palmenhaus restaurant (previously the greenhouse of the imperial palace!), we took a stroll through town to see the gorgeous baroque architecture in the city center one last time before trying to catch some sleep before our next day´s events.