SCHENECTADY – Congregation Agudat Achim in Niskayuna will host an Immigrant Shabbat on Saturday, Feb. 25, at the synagogue, 2117 Union St., Schenectady

This year’s program will focus on Literacy Volunteers of Rensselaer County Program (LVORC) and how it is meeting the needs of adults and out-of-school teens, for whom English is not their native language, and for those who need assistance in reading, writing and English-speaking skills. The Shabbat program  will discuss the value of supporting immigrants in their quest for learning and how congregants can help meet those needs.

Agudat Achim is assisting LVORC to increase the availability of volunteer tutors and classes in the Schenectady area.

The Shabbat service was inspired by HIAS’ annual Refugee Shabbat, a larger annual recognition in which congregations around the world dedicate a Sabbath experience to refugees and asylum seekers, learn more about their needs, and understand how individuals and congregations can help meet those needs.

HIAS is the world’s oldest refugee agency, formally established as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in 1902 to help Jews fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe. Today, HIAS is a multi-continent, humanitarian aid and advocacy organization with thousands of employees dedicated to helping forcibly displaced persons around the world.

Literacy Volunteers recruits and extensively trains volunteers to be tutors, who work either one-on-one or in small group instruction in reading and writing, English as a new language, math, financial literacy, computer literacy, workplace literacy, citizenship preparation and reading mentors for children in elementary school.

“Our program is tailored to the specific needs of each student,” said Executive Director Nancy Benz, be it helping them study for a high school GED, or learning the fundamentals of the English language to help them function more effectively in society.

LVORC has more than 140 volunteers, but it is not enough to meet the requests of the 200 people who want to use LVORC’s free services. LVORC offers periodic training for new volunteers, and Agudat Achim is hoping to engage members to support that effort, especially in the Schenectady area, according to Shabbat organizers.