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April 07, 1989 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-04-07

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

!LOCAL NEWS

I

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Refugee Misconceptions
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Staff Writer

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FRIDAY, APRIL 7, 1989

661.3838 j

oviet Jews believe Is-
rael is a desert with
140-degree
temperatures and gunfights
in the streets, and they're not
too sure you can walk safely
in American cities either.
Such opinions were part of
a wide-ranging picture of
world Jewry presented during
the Detroit Jewish Communi-
ty Council's annual delegate
assembly last week-.
Amir Shaviv, public infor-
mation director of the
American Jewish Joint
Distribution Committee in
New York, discussed Soviet
and Ethiopian Jews and
JDC's efforts to help Jews
overseas.
Shaviv, a former Israeli
television newscaster, was a
last-minute substitute for
Michael Schneider, JDC ex-
ecutive vice president, who
stayed in New York to steer
the agency through a cash
crisis.
Shaviv told the Council
that Hungary, Romania and
Czechoslovakia have strong
Jewish communities —
80,000 Jews live in Hungary
today — but that Poland has
only 5-6,000 Jews, mostly
elderly. However, he said,
Polish Jewish youth, in many
cases from mixed marriages,
are interested in bar mitzvah
and wear chais and magen
davids.
He said many Soviet Jews
"are eager to have Jewish
lives, and we must grasp the
opportunity and create an
ongoing atmosphere for
Jewish education in these
countries.
"Years of Soviet propagan-
da have ruined the image of
Israel for Soviet Jews. They
think it's a desert with
140-degree temperatures,
that there's shooting in the
streets and rampant
unemployment. To them, it's
a place that no sane Jew
would like to go," said Shaviv.
He described Soviet Jews
coming to the transmigration
point in Ladispoli, Italy, as "a
people who come with their
suitcases wrapped with rope.
They have left behind
whatever security they had in
the Soviet Union for a place
they don't understand. We
have to realize how frighten-
ing it is for them, what a
terrible state of mind they are
in, waiting to get to the
United States.
"In our American civics
classes in Ladispoli, the

Soviet Jews ask if you get
mugged all the time in
American cities. They want to
know if you get interviewed
for a job, do you have to take
the job? Is it safe to walk in
the streets? These are
elementary questions to us,
but not to them," said Shaviv.
He said tzedakah is "a very
hard notion to teach to Soviet
Jews" because they think
"there's something behind it,
you don't just do things for
people like that. They keep
asking, 'Why do you keep us
here?' They are suspicious of
all agencies."
He said the JDC carefully
cooperates with the Ethio-
pian government, even set-
ting up medical clinics far
from Jewish settlements,
which results in Jewish
mothers carrying their
children for miles. He said the
agency is the Ethiopian Jews'
lifeline and "if the JDC is ex-
pelled, there will be no link
with the Jews there."
He said Ethiopian mothers,
unfamiliar with modern
medicine, have to be watched
lest they give their children
entire prescriptions at once.
Asked by Henry Morgens-
tein of West Bloomfield if
there has been any adverse
comments in the Soviet press
about the United States' pro-
blems in admitting Soviet
Jews, Shaviv said, "lb the
best of our knowledge, there
has been no attempt to
capitalize on this."
Jerry Kaufman of Bloom-
field Hills asked if anyone is
talking with the U.S. govern-
ment to open the bottleneck
that is preventing Soviet Jews
from entering the country.
Shaviv said Sen. Edward
Kennedy (D.-Mass.) and other
politicians had introduced
legislation toward that end,
and that the Council of
Jewish Federations also is
working on the problem in
Washington.

4

-o

4

4

-4



Correction

Our Page 1 story last week
incorrectly said the Jewish
Welfare Federation was using
United Jewish Charities
funds for a loan to the
American Jewish Joint
Distribution Committee. In
fact, Federation is using
Allied Jewish Campaign
monies to advance a $1
million gift to JDC. Federa-
tion has committed $2.5
million to JDC from a special
"Passage to Freedom" cam-
paign for Soviet Jewry which
will begin April 12.

.•4

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