Jewish Community Center to host Utah refugee event

Refugees • Goal to raise awareness that 'there are genocides and human rights abuses going on now.'
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The phrase "never forget" is a mantra, of sorts, at Jewish community centers; it suggests the Holocaust never lose its power to horrify.

But now the I.J. & Jeanné Wagner Jewish Community Center in Salt Lake City is planning an event to reflect on modern turmoil that brings many refugees to Utah.

"Refugees Among Us" is scheduled for Thursday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the center, 2 North Medical Drive, Salt Lake City. The event is free of charge.

"We felt that if the idea of 'never forget' had any real meaning, it ought to be looking at how the world is today," said Andrea Alcabes, executive director.

Today's atrocities may not be on the scale of the Holocaust, but "there are genocides and human rights abuses going on now," Alcabes said.

Hors d'oeuvers from refugee caterers will be served, and there will be performances by Burundi drummers and a Sudanese gospel choir.

Three refugees will describe their journeys to Utah: Tahmina Martella, from what is now Bangladesh, Joseph Nahas from Sierra Leone and Nazanin Nourmohammadi from Iran.

Mara Rabin, medical director of the Utah Health and Human Rights Project will introduce speaker Gerald Brown, Utah State Refugee coordinator.

Alcabes said it's fitting for the Jewish community center to host such an event. JCCs originated as settlement houses for immigrants in big cities of the East and Midwest, evolving first into Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Association, a counterpart to YMCA and YWCA organizations organized initially for Christian immigrants.

The Wagner JCC has a scholarship program that allows some refugee youth to attend JCC camps each summer, Alcabes said.