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May 02, 1986 - Image 41

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-05-02

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arilyn Weisman left Detroit
at the age of 18.
She left us again last
month as Marilyn Grant,
leaving Detroiters with.
with an invitation to visit our sister
Jewish community in Ramie, Israel.
It is a visit, she said; with which you
will not be disappointed._
Ramie isn't one of your normal
tourist stops in Israel. In fact, the
town of 40,000 on the old road from
Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has been
bypassed by many of the amenities
associated with modern Israel. Its
people are impoverished, its
neighborhoods are poor, and for years
its residents were looking in vain for a
way out.
Now, because of changes wrought
by Detroit's contributions to Ramle's
Project Renewal neighborhood,
Ramle's residents are staying: "They
are buying their homes," Marilyn, re-
ported in 'April. "These are homes
they have lived in for years at unbe-
lievably low rents. Now they are tak-
ing out mortgages, adding improve-
ments and fixing things up because of
the changes you have made."
Mrs. Grant, who made aliyah 15
years ago from Connecticut,, is De-
troit's Project Renewal coordinator in
Ramie. She . ensures that programs
and projects approved by Detroit's
consultation committee and the Proj-
ect Renewal neighborhoodcouncil are
carried out proPerly.
Those Projects over the last seven
years • include the .Jaeolidtn,;4ental, ,
clinic, ' the " Fisher-T.04041i; AO-
4;:•1:diteritim and community center, the
2 .2: Rose 'Fainily library and the Field '
a Family youth club. .Detroiters : have
+r:contributed $6.8 mill on ,during the
deven--year. period :.to' find :these and
r4 - other projects in the - Ben-Gurion
neighborhood of 5,000 people.
Built by the Arabs in 700 C.E.
and bypassed by the new Tel Aviv -
Jerusalem highway, Ramie is bur-
' dened with substandard housing, an-
cient and inadequate sewers, non-
existent streets and poor schools. The
Ben-Gurion neighborhood includes
Karaite, Indian and Georgian• Jews,
as well as Arabs.
In meetings with the‘JeWisli Wel-
fare Federation in April, Mrs. Grant
stressed that programs to cut illiter-
- acy are a major focus. "Kids going into
kindergarten from this neighborhood
are at least two years behind the Is-
raeli average," she said. Adult illiter-
acy is a major factor. To combat these
problenis, the Project Renewal pro-
gram in Ramle funded a pre-school
program (Cognitive Kindergarten),
and after-school classes for children
and adults. Its success has led the
Ramle municipality and the Israel
Ministry of Educatien to take over the
classes and expand them throughout
the city. Detroit's funding now only
payafor a half-time teacher.





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"We're trying to give the people a
leg up," said Mrs. Grant. "They were
behind. The infrastructure when they
came to Israel in the 1950s was just
not the same as it is today and Project
Renewal is trying to address their
grievances — the unplanned injus-
Ten percent of Israel's population
is targeted by Project Renewal —
400,000 people. Eighty-two neighbor-
hoods and towns are currently in
Project Renewal and 30 more are on
the waiting list.
Eventually, Mrs. Grant envisions
Detroit's input lessening, "but there
will probably always' be some finan-
cial presence. Hopefully the programs
and their .impact will become part of
the mainstream."
The impact is already felt with
the movement to purchase and fix up
homes, the growing political aware-
ness of the neighborhood council and
its "graduation" of members to Ramie
municipal government. Last year, 20
young Detroiters on the Fresh Air
Society's Israel Teen Mission were
paired' with Ramie families. The Is-
raeli ,and American teens repaired
and decorated a shelter, and "it looks
as good now.as it did last year," Mrs.
Grant reports. "That's amazing. It
wouldn't be that way if we had done it
for them."
The ripple effect continues in the
Ben-Gurion:' iheighborhood. The
.municipality3d'spending $300,000 to
pave major Streets, allowing bus serv-
ice t,o,,the neighborhood for the =first
tinW.;-,'*;petroit," Mrs. ,Grant said,
"thatrciarnot mean much, but in Is-
rael..eteiyolie is dependent on, the
buses. The buses couldn't get through
the , narre'*; 'muddy streets" so the
neighborhood, in the middle of a large

Detroit is also continuing the Is-
rael Teen Mission program this sum-
mer and bringing Ramie youngsterd
here to work as camp counselors at
the Fresh Air Society.
Contacts between Detroit and
Ramie are also maintained by Jane
Sherman, who chairs the national.
Project Renewal committee, and the
local consultation committee ofJaines
Aiigust, Dr. Joseph and Nancy Jaeob-
son, Norinan Pappas; JameR- Colmant
Michael Berke and chairman Larry
But Marilyn Grant emphasizes
that brief visits by Detroiters mean a
lot to the community. "Every_kid in
Ramie has a vision of visiting the
United States. Americans are looked
up to as the role model. When Ameri-
cans come to Israel, and think enough
to visit Ramie, even for a few hours;
the effect is far greater than the work
they do."
"Everybody in Ramie knows
about Detroit. . They just named a
street after Detroit, and in Israel they
only name streets after pioneer heroes
or dead prime' ministers." ❑

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