The first privately sponsored Yazidi refugee family will be arriving in Winnipeg on June 30, 2016. The family, sponsored by the Operation Ezra coalition of Winnipeg, will be arriving from the Midyat refugee camp in southern Turkey.
Operation Ezra is the only comprehensive Yazidi refugee relief project in Canada and indeed in the world. Its goal is to sponsor and welcome, house and support 7 Yazidi families (42 individuals). This is an unprecedented community-wide undertaking involving dedicated community members from all walks of life. Initiated by the local advocacy group Winnipeg Friends of Israel, it began as a grass roots group of Jewish community organizations in the city but has grown into a coalition involving organizations like the Mennonite Central Committee and Bridges for Peace as well as countless local Jewish agencies and individuals who have donated useful household and personal items, time and skills. Businesses have provided kitchenware, linens and towels and warehouse space for the household items. The Salvation Army will be providing beds and mattresses as well as vouchers for their thrift stores. Shaarey Zedek Synagogue, National Council of Jewish Women as well as the Young Adult Division of the Jewish Federation have carried out various drives to collect furniture and furnishings.
A special note about the involvement of youth in the project: Gray Academy students purchased household items for the refugees, BBYO (B’nai Brith Youth Organization) and university students have helped sort and move furniture.
Upon their arrival, Operation Ezra will assist the refugees to secure appropriate housing and provide assistance with transportation, grocery shopping and adapting to their new lives. Jewish Child and Family Service will provide a variety of settlement services. The Rose and Max Rady Jewish Community Centre has offered children of the first families places at their summer day camps. In addition, a committee of community volunteers will welcome the families and do what they can to make the Yazidi refugees feel comfortable and welcome in their new home.
The Jewish Community undertook Operation Ezra (the Hebrew word for help) because it was the right thing to do. The Yazidis are an ancient ethno-religious group who originated in Mesopotamia and are based primarily in Iraq. They have been subjected to over 73 massacres throughout history and today are being slaughtered and tortured. Women and girls are being sold into sex slavery by ISIS. The Yazidis are a monotheistic people without a homeland and whose population has been decimated: once 23 million, today only 700,000 Yazidis remain.
Operation Ezra is grateful for the community's ongoing interest and support and will continue to provide updates as information on the sponsored families becomes available.
To support this rescue operation financially, readers can donate online at: