BERNEY

Dawn Berney: "We once had a refugee as a client who said that she would love to return home with her husband and children, but that her home just didn’t exist anymore. My bright idea is for us to work to turn Madison into home for those without a choice."

PHOTO BY MICHELLE STOCKER

For the fifth year, Cap Times reporters asked several Madisonians to share their "bright ideas" for the new year. We will publish the 2018 edition of Bright Ideas throughout the next week.

Let’s welcome refugees to the United States. We need to remember that the United States was founded in part to be a safe haven for the oppressed. So many of us had grandparents and great-grandparents who were welcomed to the U.S. as refugees and provided with opportunities and safety.

Jewish Social Services, where I work, has a history of resettling people in Madison. From providing support to refugees from Nazi Germany in the 1940s to resettling refugees from the former Soviet Union at the end of the last century/beginning of this century, to our current work with resettling families from war-torn Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, we see the need and the benefits to the families we resettle and the Madisonians who do the work.

Let’s use this as an opportunity for our multitudes of communities to work collaboratively. Senior adults, young adults and children can join together to clean apartments, teach people how to ride the bus, make dinners and babysit. Jews, Christians, Muslims, atheists and agnostics plan together in furnishing apartments, helping people find work and teaching adults how to drive cars. Working with refugees who have had very difficult, or even impossible lives provides us with empathy and shows us how we have so many similarities even with our differences.

We once had a refugee as a client who said that she would love to return home with her husband and children, but that her home just didn’t exist anymore. My bright idea is for us to work to turn Madison into home for those without a choice.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.