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April 25, 2003 - Image 12

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-04-25

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

his eek

Job Well Done

As war-ravaged Kosovo rebuilds, JDC plays a major role.

dren back to school," Eliezri says. Working direct- effort in Kosovo, the group has directed its atten-
tion to the country's most severe ethnic-religious
ly with local builders, Eliezri rebuilt walls,
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
divide, the one between the Serbs who have
repaired broken windows and replaced doors.
remained or returned to Kosovo — some 200,000
In
a
postwar
environment
full
of
nongovern-
Prishtina, Kosovo
became refugees after the NATO campaign —
mental
organizations
flush
with
noble
intentions
he topic of today's lesson in "Literature
and the Albanians.
but short on practical achievements, the JDC's
and Psychology" is Nikolai Gogol's
The JDC is supporting the Multiethnic
efforts were so successful that UNICEF asked the
Diary of a Madman.
Children
and Youth Peace Center in Mitrovica, a
group to take on the reconstruction of all of
"How can the madman in the story
town in northern Kosovo, divided by a river into
Prishtina's
schools.
Eventually
the
JDC
would
actually think he is reading letters written by
Serbian and Albanian sections. Operating under
repair and renovate 40 public schools across
dogs?" a student asks. In a New York-inflected
the philosophy that coexistence must be fostered
Kosovo.
rasp, Professor Les Rabkin explains that it's part
while
people are young, the center runs a day-care
The organization's symbol, a menorah, is a
of the character's psychosis.
center
for children of all ethnicities, including
familiar image on dedication plaques in front of
It's only as the chill air sneaks into class and the
other
Kosovar
minorities such as Bosnians and
schools, as well as on the backpacks — donated
generators rumble to life, signaling another power
Roma
(gypsies).
along with other school supplies — toted by chil-
cut, that the fantasy of being in an American col-
The center publishes a youth magazine and pro-
dren in Kosovo's towns and cities.
lege class dissipates. We are at the University of
duces a radio program,
To
close
the
educational
Prishtina in Kosovo, and the professor is here as
written
by Serbians and
gaps between Kosovo and
part of a project sponsored by the American
Albanians
under the tute-
the developed world, the
Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
lage
of
trained
journalists.
JDC has supplied computer
The school is among many projects that the
Its
operations
will
expand
labs and set up free English
JDC has undertaken to restore the physical and
dramatically
when
it moves
and computer classes taught
human resources of Kosovo's educational system.
into
a
massive
community
by local teachers. The class-
The JDC, an international Jewish relief organiza-
center close to one of the
es were organized in coop-
tion, began work in Kosovo in June 1999, shortly
main bridges dividing the
eration with ORT, the glob-
after NATO bombs had cowed Yugoslav President
town.
al vocational training pro-
Slobodan Milosevic into ending his "ethnic
It is in facilitating this
gram that shares an office
cleansing" campaign against the majority popula-
move
that the JDC has
with JDC in Kosovo.
tion of Albanians and withdrawing his army from
played
its most vital role,
These days, ORT is really
Kosovo.
say
observers.
Once the
The JDC's first mission in Kosovo was to rescue just one man — Aryeh
peace center's director,
Kurakin,
a
large,
affable
fel-
the handful of Jews in Prishtina, but of course a
Miranda Buchman, enlist-
low with silvery white hair
colossal humanitarian imperative presented itself
ed Eliezri's support, the
and mustache. He worked
as well. News of Milosevic's misdeeds in Kosovo
JDC
representative man-
as an engineer for the
— as many as 18,000 people were killed and
aged
to get a deal signed
Israeli shipping firm Zim,
750,000 displaced — touched a raw nerve across
with
municipal
authorities
and taught welding and
the American Jewish community.
for
use
of
the
space.
His
related skills for more than
"Never again" seemed to be the collective
group also is funding the
30
years
at
a
trade
school.
response as the JDC collected $5 million in a spe-
renovation and equipping
In addition to computer
cial mailbox campaign to aid the region. Those
the center with computers.
and English classes,
specially earmarked funds allowed the group to
One JDC project, the
Having
rebuilt
over
three
dozen
schools
in
Kurakin established and
undertake an array of humanitarian projects.
psychology
department
Kosovo,
JDC
also
provided
students
with
school
taught welding classes eight
But now, with those funds running out and life
project
at
the
University of
bags,
shoes
and
winter
coats.
hours a day.
in Kosovo steadily normalizing, JDC is scaling
Prishtina
where
Rabkin
With some of the territo-
back its activities. In the four years JDC has been
teaches,
was
the
brainchild
ry's most desperate needs
here, the small staff — three Israelis, one of them
of
American-born
Israeli
Moshe
Lantsman,
a psy-
tended to, the JDC turned its efforts toward
British-born — has played a critical role in recon-
chology
professor
at
Ben-Gurion
University.
bridging some of Kosovo's ethnic and religious
structing and equipping the territory's schools,
Lantsman had been volunteering in Kosovo
rifts. The group lent its support, along with the
providing computer and vocational education and
after
the war and realized there was an acute lack
Catholic Church and Kosovo's Islamic communi-
supporting projects aimed at fostering coexistence
of
trained
counselors and psychologists. After
ty, to the restoration of a_mosque that had been
among Kosovo's religious and ethnic communi-
negotiating
the funding and navigating the
bombed during the war.
.
ties.
University of Prishtina's bureaucracy, Lantsman
The
Shiponje
mosque
was
one
of
more
than
Eli Eliezri, the JDC's main representative in
launched the psychology program in the fall of
200 deliberately targeted by Serb forces, a testa-
Kosovo, came by way of Bosnia where, as the
2001, with major assistance from the JDC.
ment to the scale of Milosevic's ambitions in
JDC's representative during the earlier Yugoslav
Lantsman makes frequent trips to Kosovo from
changing the cultural identity of Kosovo.
war, he helped negotiate the evacuation of Jews
Israel
to oversee the program and also to teach
Religious figures from the three communities
from Sarajevo. He first arrived in Kosovo in June
courses.
He is recognizable in town, being the
stood on the podium together with hands joined
1999.
-
only man in Prishtina regularly wearing a yarmul-
at
the
mosque
dedication
Sept.
7,
2001.
"We did an assessment and decided that the
ke — and a rainbow one, at that.
For what will probably be the JDC's final large
greatest priority for that time was getting the chil-

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4/25

2003

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