Federation Leads with Local Partners to Help Afghan Ally Make Daring Escape

Jewish Federation Takes the Lead with Local Partners to Help Afghan Ally Make Daring Escape to Freedom

Temple volunteer Ruth Thomas, with Abdullah, checks for arriving flights.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville, in partnership with The Temple, Nashville International Center for Empowerment (NICE), the offices of immigration attorney Greg Siskind, state lawmakers, and Jewish community volunteers, secured the freedom of an Afghan ally left behind after his family escaped to the United States. The escape ends 18 months of trauma, fear, and separation, and just a couple of weeks ago, the family was finally reunified.

This family’s story of courage and resilience in the face of immeasurable challenges began in the summer of 2021, during the invasion of the Taliban in Kabul. In a last-minute frantic race to the airport to board a plane out of the fallen city, one member of the large extended family was pushed to the ground.

Javid watched in horror as the doors to the boarding area shut in front of him with his family on the other side. An American soldier stationed at the airport tried to help, but in those final moments the only way to keep the family safe was to continue moving forward, leaving their loved one behind.

What followed was many months of evading the Taliban who had already announced a fatwa, or death threat, on Javid’s life. After making his way to Pakistan, and while in hiding, with the assistance of Nashville’s Jewish Federation, he began the lengthy process of securing a visa and completing the necessary paperwork to come to the United States.

Family members await the arrival of Javid, who was left behind in Afghanistan.


Finally, after several days of travel, Javid arrived in Nashville, into the loving embrace of his family. The success is due to a year-long effort by the Jewish community and its partners, to assist three families by providing critically needed services, including helping to acquire the essential expedited Humanitarian Parole status.

Leslie Kirby, President of The Jewish Federation, says, “In a time of hyper-partisanship, it is remarkable to see so many people come together, across walks of life, across the political aisle, across generations, to do incredible good. This is truly a miracle – but it was a miracle made possible by an enormous amount of dedication, hard work, and perseverance. I’m incredibly proud of the work of the Nashville Jewish community, but also grateful. This work made us stronger and better as a community as well.”

The process to bring Javid to Nashville was long, grueling, and dangerous, and involved the coordinated work of an entire community, including United States Senator Bill Hagerty. According to Michal Becker, Director of Engagement for The Jewish Federation, “It has been our absolute honor to be there for this family that went through so much to get here. It has been also an incredible experience to see so many people in our community mobilize to give their time, their skills, and their compassion and kindness to people who came here burdened with such devastating trauma. We realized how much power we have when we work together, with our partners, toward such an important goal. However, this process also made us realize how much effort and resources were put into reuniting this one family, and this made us wonder what happens to all those people who are not as lucky to get such help. “

Over the past year, teams of volunteers have assisted the families with doctor appointments, enrolling children in school, shopping for basic items at Walmart or Kroger, and helping with meals. Volunteers spent countless hours navigating American systems and bureaucracy.

Javid’s family was helped by the team from The Temple, headed by Rene Kasman and Ruth Thomas. According to Kasman, “This has been one of the most gratifying projects I have ever worked on. It was inspiring to see so many members of our community willing to step up to help reunite this family. It truly took a village to make it happen: volunteer lawyers, doctors, staff members from our senator's office, our Temple congregation and Clergy, the Jewish Federation. But it was especially the determination of the family that made this happen. No matter how much success they achieved in the past year, from getting jobs and a car to moving into a brand-new home, this remained the most important goal for them...to bring their family member, whose life was still in danger from the Taliban, safely to the United States.”

Humanitarian parole allows people who provided service to the American government, like Javid, and his family, to obtain a visa to come to the United States. But humanitarian parole visas have an expiration date, typically lasting one or two years. If people are unable to obtain a green card or political asylum, they face the possibility of deportation back to Afghanistan and back into the hands of the Taliban.

At the end of the day, though, this is a story about family, and about one community joining together to ensure the well-being of a family. After the excitement of the reunion, the family insisted everyone who accompanied them to the airport return to their home to share a meal. Kasman and Thomas were among those guests. “We gathered in a circle in their living room and held hands for a prayer led by the matriarch of the family, the grandmother. This coming from a country that is now telling these women they are not fit for jobs or an education,” says Kasman.

And that small moment highlights both the pain and the promise for those who fled the Taliban regime. Kasman says, “One of the first things the newly arrived father told me at the airport was that his dream was for his 6-year-old daughter to be able to go to school. I share that dream with him. For all the women and children in the family. I hope they all will now have the opportunity to experience life fully and fulfill their potential.”


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