Sussman, who has lived in Israel, acknowledges some self-consciousness. "In most cases I'm the first American they have a meaningful relationship [with]," she says, "and probably the first Jewish person they've met."
The energetic social worker seems to have made a good impression: the refugees all know her by her first name, and one Iraqi woman even named her daughter "Mera."
"Believe it or not, I have never heard anti-Jewish remarks," says Sussman's boss, JFS executive director Anya Abramzon. It probably helps that the law is laid down at the daily English classes that no one disparages another ethnic group. More important, says Abramzon, the refugees all "have one goal-of becoming Americans."