In the town’s schools, about 18 percent of the students speak a language other than English as their first language, slightly higher than the state average, state figures show.
But most students learn English quickly; only 7 percent are not fluent in English, most of them kindergartners, Lancaster said. Among all students who do not speak fluent English, 45 percent speak Spanish, 45 percent speak Portuguese, 6 percent speak Arabic (Egyptian dialect), and 4 percent speak another language, she said.
The adults who come to the United States from Egypt often struggle to continue schooling and careers they began in their home country. Samy, 32, the third friend who helped set up the church for the El-Horya Meeting, had a law degree in Egypt. When he came to the United States six years ago, after winning a visa through a lottery for residents of countries, like Egypt, with low immigration rates, he found he couldn’t afford to repeat law school.
Now he is managing a convenience store and dreams of owning his own business, said Samy, who spoken on the condition that his last name not be used. “It’s not as easy as it looked in the American movies I used to watch,” he said.
George and Ann Gergis met on Valentine’s Day 2005, her first day of work at the Copy Cop on Boylston Street in Boston, where he was a graphics designer and she worked in customer service. She grew up in Rockland, Maine, and had never met anyone from Egypt.
Eight months later, they were married at a nondenominational church in Maine. At their reception, they played music from both of their backgrounds: Arabic, rock, country.
“When we got married, religion wasn’t an issue,” said Ann, 31. “We fell in love.”
They honeymooned at Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Not long after the wedding, George took her to a service at a Coptic Christian church in Rhode Island.
Ann wasn’t raised religious, and was open to considering a church. But she found it hard to adapt to the Orthodox service, which is conducted in Arabic and Coptic.
The lawyer who helped them with George’s immigration status attends the Arabic Evangelical Baptist Church in West Roxbury, and he invited them to attend a service.
They found the church members warm and open, and Ann liked that there was an English translation. The church was convenient when they lived in Waltham, and then Watertown. But once they moved to Milford in 2011, the drive was too long. George started talking with Ghobrial about starting a satellite church in Milford.
The Gergises’ new house is a gray Cape near the elementary school where their daughter, Eve, goes to kindergarten. Their son, Jonathan, is 2. George commutes to Waltham, where he is a design technologist at a software company, and gets home each day at 7 p.m. He feels like his concerns are typically American: working on his house, raising his kids.
After the bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, it didn’t occur to Ann that this might be a problem for her husband.
“Not at all,” she said. “Because I don’t see him that way. Because I know how loving his community is.”
But as George checked with friends to make sure they were safe, and prayed that no one else would be hurt, he felt dread. The suspicions that some Americans had directed at immigrants had finally died down after 9/11, he said.
In 2001, George was living in Boston, working at Copy Cop. Not long after the attacks, he said, a customer threw her papers at him, screaming, “Your people killed!” He went outside to get some air; and when he had no money to give a homeless man, George said, he called him a killer.
“But now it’s going to start over again,” he worried. “It’s painful.”