Professor Kathie Friedman recently participated in a panel discussion titled: “We Are Seattle: Stories from Families, Immigrants, Refugees & The Agencies That Serve Them.” Around 150 people attended the May 17, 2016 event held in the downtown Seattle Public Library.
Professor Friedman provided social and historical context about Seattle as an immigration absorbing city. Seattle has a large foreign born population and over the years helped resettle refuges from around the globe.
The evening began with a presentation by photographic historian Louise Kurabi who worked for Neighborhood House, one the event’s co-sponsors, for over 20 years. Her visual presentation highlighted the work of Neighborhood House from its beginnings in the early 20th century.
Since its early days, the organization founded by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe has been providing community based public and social services for immigrants and their families. The evolution of the Neighborhood House tells the story not only immigrants but that of Seattle. One part of their mission is to balance the need to provide tools and skills for assimilation as well as preserve the immigrants’ native cultures.
The Jackson School Stroum Center for Jewish Studies has engaged in a digital project called Seattle’s Settlement House that captures some of this history.
The panel that followed moderated by journalist Enrique Carne also featured Kate Kaniaru financial consultant for low-income immigrants at the Neighborhood house, Executive Director of One America Rich Stolz, Steve Van a case worker at Neighborhood House and Historian Dr. David Katzman. The panelists shared their personal immigration story and talked about the work that is being done in Seattle in order to support immigrants’ integration.
In an appeal to the audience regarding the issue of Syrian refugees, Professor Friedman urged to personalize the refugee story.
“We must avoid the words swarm, flood, tidal wave etc. when referring to Syrian or any other refuge. The more we are able to make their story personal and real the likelier it is countries would want to host them and the easier it will be for them to integrate,” she said.
She noted that Seattle’s mayor and Washington state governor are creating a welcoming climate for immigrants but the overall commitment by the United States to allow Syrian refugees into the country has been low.
Friedman also discussed immigrants’ financial and cultural contribution and the fact that they have been an integral part of Seattle since the very beginning.
The event was co-sponsored by The Seattle Public Library, Humanities Washington, One America, Neighborhood House, The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies.