Ethiopian Immigrants in Rishon LeZion
Addis Tasfa (New Hope) is the name of the long-standing JHH microfinance project for Ethiopian immigrants in the Ramat Eliyahu neighborhood of Rishon LeZion. Of 50 participants in the JHH business training program, 16 have businesses that have been materially enhanced, an extraordinarily high success rate in this kind of work. Two more businesses are expected to open soon. Loans JHH has made through the program are being repaid, though only sporadically.
One store, owned by Shababo (pictured here) is doing very well, selling $3000 wedding outfits. On the other hand, one barbershop and salon continues to struggle with poor PR and marketing, and has attracted only male customers to date.
The model for the next year will be more like a business club with monthly meetings which will be offered to the 16 successful program graduates, plus owners of a select group of 10 other area businesses. There must be at least 15 participants for the program to succeed. The program will provide expert resource people and one-on-one mentoring. Program members will contribute NIS 200 per participant. JHH expects to continue this program for two years, which is necessary to ensure that most of the graduates’ businesses succeed. The total cost to develop the project will be $30,000 for each of the next two years, after which it will be self-sustaining.
The project will be managed by Lena, CEO of the Supportive Community NGO. Nega, a community organizer, and Nezi, the program coordinator will continue to play important roles. JHH will contribute $4000 toward the $12,000 in staff costs.
The JHH delegates also discussed supporting a food cooperative in the area. JHH will examine this further during the Fall trip.
The JHH group agreed to help the director of the Ramat Eliyahu Community Center to create an Ethiopian youth orchestra by collecting used musical instruments they need. So far 13 of the 21 needed instruments have been collected. JHH will have them repaired and bring them to Israel.
Ofakim Community Garden
In Ofakim, the JHH delegation visited a one acre plot being developed by JNF that will be devoted to a community garden and outdoor gathering center. Students from the surrounding elementary schools will participate in programs run by teens at risk. There will be environmental and recycling centers, and perhaps also a pluralist Beit Midrash. The facility will include a village for 50 university students who will volunteer at the center. The MetroWest Federation partnership will contribute $5000, which JHH match with a $5000. contribution. Itzik, who sells toys for a living, will be the JHH local leader.
Area of the Carmel Fires
Rabbi Edgar Nof (a Reform rabbi in Haifa) took the JHH group to visit Beit Oren, the kibbutz which was devastated by last year’s Carmel fires. There they meet an immigrant from Argentina named Imi and her son Yiftach. Imi is a potter whose studio and cafe were totally destroyed in the fires. JHH give her funds for a new potter’s wheel and a gift for Yiftach for his recent Bar Mitzvah. JHH also helped Rabbi Nof to pay for the cost of the Bar Mitzvah and celebration, which the congregation had funded. Imi invited JHH back for the mezzuzah hanging when her studio is restored in its new and potentially lovely location. She was embarrassed to accept the help but said that the fire brought so many good people into her life. JHH was glad that we could be included among them.
Jewish Helping Hands is considering creating a more lasting relationship with this kibbutz.
At the suggestion of Rabbi Nof, JHH brought a new computer for Tamir, a young boy in a particularly difficult family situation with little to be happy about. Tamir was overjoyed by the computer. He hooked it up immediately and sent his first email to JHH’s Rabbi Soffin. Rabbi Nof was sure that JHH had just changed his life and given him a reason to smile and a gateway to a personal sanctuary, connecting with friends through the internet.
Gypsy Community in East Jerusalem
The JHH delegation met with Anat Hoffman, director of the Israel Religious Action Center. Anat is a leading civil rights and social activist in Israeli society.
At JHH’s request, Anat spoke to the delegation about which group in Israel is neediest, and they were surprised to learn that it is the Gypsies. There are 5,000-10,000 Gypsies in East Jerusalem, where they are regarded as the lowest group in Palestinian society and are openly ridiculed in public and in school. Virtually no Jews know anything about them.
The JHH delegation met with Amoun Sleem of the Domari Association for the Advancement of Gypsies in Jerusalem. She took us into East Jerusalem to see the situation firsthand.
Expected in her culture to be a beggar, Amoun has had a hard life, but has risen above it to get an education. She began her organization in 1999 despite opposition from elders including her father. Gypsies are Muslims; most cannot read or write.
Amoun’s group needs 6 computers for the kids to use, plus tables and chairs for them. This will improve their English, in part because they will enlist American volunteers to teach them. The JHH group saw the many traditional crafts the women there are making as they increase their self-esteem and earn some desperately-needed money. Husbands oppose birth control, so most Gypsy women have 8 or 9 children. Amoun’s dream is to have a place in the Jewish side of the city for Jews and Arabs to patronize where women will work at sewing machines.
For the JHH Fall visit, it will be helpful to bring them: toys and children’s clothes; deodorant, toothbrushes/paste, small shampoos and lotions, and other toiletries; school supplies (notebooks, pens, pencils); and even hard candies as rewards for extra studying; pampers and dried milk. JHH will bring at least three laptops, which is Amoun’s specific request.
Other Projects and Possibilities
- The Jewish Helping Hands delegation visited with the mayor of the Druse village of Hurfeish, whom JHH had met previously. He took the JHH group to meet Druse who are part of a women’s circle reviving the traditional weaving and handcrafts of their people.
- JHH will consider creating a modest micro-finance project with Druse women who are eager to create their own businesses, despite the cultural restrictions placed on them.
- In partnership with Livnot U’l’hibanot (To Build and Be Rebuilt), the delegation participated in a home restoration in Tzfat, where they spent a day scraping and painting.
- JHH was presented with an exciting potential partnership with the town of Shlomi near Rosh HaNikra on the Lebanon Border. This is a small town of 12,000 or 14,000 inhabitants with few support services. The mayor is a locally born electrical engineer and non-politician. The head social worker, Sharona Yosef, runs whatever social services there are. There is no administrative bureaucracy to deal with. They have many needs and JHH will look for projects to design together when its delegation visits in the Fall.
- JHH donated $500 to Rabbanit Kapach, who uses the funds to provide Passover food baskets for poor Jewish families.
- The JHH group visited the Shalit family, whose son Gilad was kidnapped by Hamas five years ago, to show its support.