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Baskets meant to heal more than damage

A basket can't repair the physical damage that's been done at the homes of five immigrant families in northwest Rochester. A basket can't pull toilet paper out of the trees, replace slashed tires or remove spray paint.

The gifts and goodies inside the basket, which will be hand-delivered, can't change the fear, sleepless nights and feeling of being unwanted that the families felt as eggs were thrown at their houses and cars driven onto the lawn to dump garbage.

No, the basket filled with gifts and goodies being delivered this week to each of the five families who have been victimized, some repeatedly over the past few years, is meant to do much more.

"We have something special here, we have a wonderful city. We want to preserve that and celebrate it and make sure everyone feels welcome," said Rabbi Michelle Werner, of B'nai Israel Synagogue in Rochester, who is leading an interfaith effort to heal, welcome and show appreciation to the families who were vandalized.

The five households, which include three Somali families, one Laotian family and one Arab family, have received support from their coworkers and Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association, said Werner, who has met with the families. However, their feelings of disappointment, vulnerability and isolation remain since no one from their neighborhood or community has stepped up to show their support, she said.


She contacted a new Rochester-area interfaith leaders group, the social action community at the synagogue, the Jewish-Muslim women's dialogue group, all of which are stepping up to make baskets for the families as a gift for Thanksgiving to show that Rochester appreciates diversity, she said.

People can drop off donated items for the baskets at the synagogue. Community members also may be present when the baskets are delivered at 2 p.m. Wednesday

"It's unfair," Werner said. "That a small group of people are tarnishing the reputation of Rochester and ruining something that is sacred and precious."

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