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Syrian Conflict enters 6th year: New Jerseyans respond in many ways

by Thomas E. Franklin

March 2016 marked the fifth anniversary of the Syrian crisis, a grim milestone in a bloody civil war that has left an estimated quarter million dead, and the mass exodus of nearly half the country’s population. The death figures are staggering. Nearly 11.5 percent of Syria’s population have been wounded or killed since 2011, according to the Syrian Center for Policy Research (SCPR). The vast majority -some 400,000- have been killed by violence, while 70,000 have died indirectly from the loss of adequate medical-care and medicine, the spread of disease, and overall food scarcity. Another 1.88 million Syrians have been injured. As a result, countless million have been forced to resettle outside the country, and have come to depend completely on humanitarian aid. Five years after the fighting began, many Syrians face a very uncertain future. Despite a number of rallies around the world, including recent protests in front of the United Nations following the latest round of bombings in Aleppo, the global crisis seems to have reached a saturation point. The public has grown weary. Yet here in New Jersey, where the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has quietly resettled nearly two dozen refugee families, there has been a growing grassroots movement by various local religious groups and ad hoc volunteers to provide needed assistance and friendship to Syrian families trying to adapt to a new life in America. Some of that support has come area churches and mosques, but it also as come from more unlikely sources, two North Jersey Jewish synagogues.

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