[Editor’s note: Joy Aaronson is our first guest blogger. I very much hope that other OPT community members will follow Joy’s lead and write about your own experiences with the Almadani family.]

During our Saturday mentoring time with the Almadani family, Debbie Riseman and I celebrated Baian’s 8th birthday.  We sang happy birthday with lit cupcakes, wore party hats (lots of laughter), and gave her a birthday balloon and a card.

I am a former ESL teacher. I feel grateful to be part of the OPT team who are mentoring and tutoring the family.  It has been a powerful experience to be part of their arrival in the U.S., from greeting them at the airport to visiting them regularly at their home. What a heartwarming experience to be part of a team of Jewish people welcoming and embracing a Syrian Muslim refugee family, and getting to know and care about them!

I was amazed at how much English Baian had learned from the previous visit. On the last visit, Nawar (Baian’s mother) and I read a bi-lingual Arabic/English book to the children. This time, Baian read the bilingual Brown Bear book that I had brought, in both Arabic and English, with Nawar helping her.

The children and the parents are going to school and learning English. The Almadani family is grateful for our caring and grateful to be here in Chicago.  And the OPT team is grateful to be part of their journey.


Birthday girl Baian.


nawar learning English

Nawar learning English.

birthday party

Joy Aaronson, Debbie Riseman, Nawar (back row), Mohammad, Esraa and Baian (front row).


birthday party

Mohamad, Baian and Esraa celebrate Baian’s birthday.

Share This