At the start of the Syrian civil war, artist and scholar Jumana Jaber fled Syria, along with her family, and eventually immigrated to the United States through the help of the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund. Since 2002, the fund has helped 650 persecuted intellectuals (many from Iraq and Syria) – helping with the red-tape (including visas), and even employment, providing a necessary entry point to American academia.
Jumana Jaber took advantage of this and for the past few years has taught visual arts at Montclair State University in New Jersey. Sarah Willcox, the fund’s director, says Ms. Jaber is a good example of those that the fund seeks to help. “They are often dissidents,” Willcox says. “Scholars are targeted because they are recognized and respected people in their community.”
In Syria, Ms. Jaber made art with political messages including paintings with motifs of chairs which she says symbolize ruthless power in Syria. Ms. Jaber feels she is free to create art in the U.S. that would not be possible in her home country. Her family though is worried about the rising anti-Muslim sentiment in America but Ms. Jaber tries not to let that get to her. “It’s hurts me a little bit,” she says. “But I have wonderful colleagues and friends and they understand our situation.