PITTSFIELD — A proposed refugee resettlement plan in Pittsfield is set to become a reality.Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts this week received official approval for the resettlement program from the federal Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. The program will resettle up to 50 refugees, primarily from Syria and Iraq, in the Pittsfield area.

An official commencement date for resettlement has not been determined. But the organization is hopeful that the first family will be settled sometime in the spring, said Maxine Stein, president & CEO of Jewish Family Service.

Hias, a Jewish resettlement organization, had identified Pittsfield as a relocation community for refugees. Since July, the organization has been meeting with local community members about the program.

"[This is] an amazing opportunity for Pittsfield to once again became a welcoming community for refugees," Stein said. Between 30,000 and 35,000 immigrants, primarily refugees, came to cities and towns in Western Massachusetts — including Pittsfield — from Russia and other former Soviet bloc countries in the 1980s and 1990s.

The organization had its first meeting with local stakeholders last July. Since then, the community has largely responded with overwhelming support for the program, Stein said.

The number of people displaced worldwide due to conflict and persecution exceed 60 million at the end of 2015 — the highest number ever recorded by the United Nations. This represents an increase of more than 5 million from the previous year.

"Acts of violence perpetrated on the Syrian people are incomprehensible to those of us who live in a protected and secure nation," Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer said in a statement. "I believe strongly, both personally and professionally, in our obligation to respond to this humanitarian crisis. And, I am committed to ensuring that the citizens of Pittsfield have ample opportunity to learn more about this endeavor and to providing a welcoming environment to those from Syria who we may someday call friend and neighbor."

State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, also expressed support for the project.

"The people of Pittsfield have made it clear that they [are] eager to open their hearts and welcome new neighbors to our community," she said in a press release.

Jewish Family Service will work in collaboration with Hias to identify refugees to resettle in Pittsfield.

The organization plans to hire new staff members — a refugee resettlement coordinator, a caseworker and likely a volunteer/donations coordinator — and open up a local office in preparation for the refugees' arrival. Its office is located in Springfield.

Last year, Massachusetts welcomed 1,734 refugees from around the world, according to the press release. 241 of these individuals were accepted by Jewish Family Service in partnership with Hias.

Reach staff writer Patricia LeBoeuf at 413-496-6247 or @BE_pleboeuf.