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'It’s that face-to-face connection where we see our commonality': Valley rabbi hosts Thanksgiving for refugees, asylum seekers

For the sixth time, Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz hosted refugees and asylum seekers for a dinner to bring a taste of home.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It was a Thanksgiving dinner, not with friends and family, but with strangers far from home.

“To me this is everything. What it means to be American,” Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz said.

Yanklowitz has made it a family tradition to open up his home to asylum seekers and refugees. To give them the comfort of home and community after a trying year.

“We are very happy that we are safe,” Shah said.

12 News is concealing Shah's identity for the safety of his family. Earlier this year, he fled Afghanistan with his wife and 1-year-old son as the Taliban took control

Shah said the Taliban were shooting educated people. His wife is a doctor, while Shah has a high-level degree.

After fleeing the country he used to call home, Shah is starting to settle into Phoenix. He said he feels born again, with a new chance to start over.

On Thanksgiving Eve, he's thankful to be able to share a strangers dinner table.

“Different family, different cultures, different country, different things. We are coming because of humanity,” Shah said.

Yanklowitz's dinner table hosted people from three different continents and three different religions. Yanklowitz instead hoped tonight was a chance to focus on what everyone had in common.

“It’s that face-to-face connection where we see our commonality,” Yanklowitz said. "And so it feels all the more important to sit down with those different than ourselves, in whatever way they are different. "

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