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November 30, 1990 - Image 22

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-11-30

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



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herry sat on the
corner, nuzzled up
against the marble
slab of a building founda-
tion. An old brown corduroy
jacket was pulled up around
her face to keep out the San
Francisco evening wind.
The bottom of her un-
buttoned jacket was
wrapped around what was
perhaps her most valuable
possession, her daughter,
Sarah, age 4, and like her
mother, a part of the 16 per-
cent of this City by the Bay
that is homeless.
The 3,000 delegates who
came to downtown San
Francisco for last week's
Council of Jewish Federa-
tions General Assembly saw
two worlds. There was the
world inside the downtown
hi-rise hotel, where amidst
the coffee shops, cocktail
lounges, gift shops and
seminar rooms, delegates
were comforted by the news
that millions of dollars were
being taken in for the reset-
tlement of Soviet Jews.
What was discomforting,
however, was that even the
top leadership didn't have a
clue just how much all of this
was actually going to cost in
the long run.
Then there was the world
outside the hotel, where one
did not have to stray far to
be asked for money by a
homeless person. Some
seemed too young, too able-
bodied to be on the street.
Some talked to themselves
and anyone else who would
listen; some screamed angri-
ly, some cowered. Some said
they were Vietnam vets.
Others said they were
homeless for the first time,
the result of a bad break.
Sherry and Sarah didn't
know that there was a GA
going on inside the nearby
hotel. They didn't care that
tens of millions of dollars are
going to be needed to resettle
what will come to 25 percent
of Israel's existing popula-
tion. Sherry was reading a
fairy tale to her daughter
and gladly took $2 offered
her from a passing stranger.
Leaning against the wall
was a brown paper grocery
sack, with a couple sweaters
and two Winnie The Pooh
stuffed animals, "Pooh" and
She said it was almost im-
possible to pick yourself up
and get a job when you don't
have clean clothes, or a place

to leave your child while you
earn enough money for rent.
But that was as personal as
she wanted to get.
What Sherry and the
others like her did for people
at the GA was remind them
in terms of cold, hard reality
that while Russian reset-
tlement is a miracle and a
top priority, it isn't the only
priority. Indeed, even in
terms of the GA itself, there
were smaller seminars in
smaller rooms that didn't at-
tract hundreds, but, instead
handfuls. Issues in such
critical areas as AIDS,
intermarriage and even
divorce carried an urgency,
but an accompanying sense
of being on the back burner
for now.
Robert Aronson, the exec-
utive vice president of the

One only had to
walk out the door
to face reality.

Detroit Jewish Welfare Fed-
eration compared the GA to
a sort of Jewish organiza-
tional smorgasbord, saying
that it was often difficult
even for a veteran GA dele-
gate to sort through the
major issues and come away
with a clear sense of
"It can make you crazy,"
he said. "You are learning
about one need, then an-
other need, then another.
The needs pile up into an in-
tensive review of the
The GA was so intense and
so busy with issues that
many of its delegates had to
break away, to ride on one of
the city's famous cable cars
or do a little sight-seeing and
shopping. But for many, the
longer they were out, the
more they were astounded
by what they saw. Because
no matter where one walked,
shopped or took in the
sights, there was someone
there asking for money. One
lady even peddled neon yo-
yos for $3 outside an upscale
art gallery. She not only
peddled them, she followed
you down the street until
you had to ask her to go
Across the street from a
prestigious San Francisco
toy store on this particular
Saturday night, Sherry and
Sarah were again taking a
nap and breaking the hearts
of anyone who passed and
cared to look. 0

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