Breaking Bread, Breaking Barriers

Press Coverage 
  • Photo credit: Michael Bryant, Inquirer Staff Photographer
  • Photo credit: Rama Albarazy
  • Photo credit: Rama Albarazy
  • Photo credit: Rama Albarazy

On January 31st, just five days after President Trump signed the Executive Order halting refugee resettlement, Nationalities Service Center supported “Breaking Bread Breaking Barriers,” a project of Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia Human Rights Commission, HIAS Pennsylvania and the Penn Project for Civic Engagement. The project brings together Syrian refugees and leaders from the Mayfair community to connect across a dinner table. Since November 2015, NSC has resettled 205 Syrian refugees and was able to bring some of the families together with Mayfair residents.

Breaking Bread Breaking Barriers uses food as a bridge to build cultural understanding. Bringing together two different cuisines, the first a dish of butternut squash, collard greens and blackened fish made by Jack McDavid from Down Home Diner and the second a dish of hummus and falafel made by Hesham and Adham Albarouki from Kamal’s Middle Eastern Specialties, the dinner engaged each person in the preparation, cooking and sharing of the meal.  The event began with a warm welcome to both Mayfair community leaders and Syrian refugees and an affirmation by Reading Terminal Market Manager, Anuj Gupta, that refugees will always be welcome in the market. Translated by NSC’s employment specialist Nasr, these introductions built the foundation for connection and community.

The Syrian refugees and Mayfair residents joined together to tear at collard green leaves, mold the falafel mixture and fry the falafel to perfection. Working through translation, Syrian refugees and Mayfair residents ate together and shared special memories around food in their lives. One memory, shared by a Syrian refugee who had arrived in November, described a traditional Syrian dish of pastry stuffed with meat and onions, a common dish in his country that brought back warm memories of home. Together attendees realized that community, tradition and family were all a part of their shared stories.

These memories were bittersweet for Syrian families who now face increased separation from their family members after the announcement of the 120 day pause on refugee resettlement. Many attendants shared the sentiment, that now more than ever, community support and shared understanding is needed for refugees. This event is the first of two events that will join Syrian refugees and Mayfair community leaders. At the next meeting, volunteers from this event will work together to plan and prepare a meal and share what understanding they have gained from working together.

For us, at Nationalities Service Center, food has always been an important part of welcoming a new refugee family. After days of travel, families are welcomed to their new home with a hot meal. This meal is one of the first experiences the families will have in America and gives them a taste of hope for the future. Breaking Bread Breaking Barriers continues this taste of hope for refugees creating hope for new friends in their new home.

Read more about the event and watch some footage at the links below:

ABC

CBS

NBC

WHYY

Inquirer

NPR Live