Letters to the editor, October 3

FM fights Jew hatred

FM fights Jew hatred Sir, Contrary to the perception created by Caroline B. Glick in her article "The death of memory" (September 27), Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom was unable to attend the funeral of Simon Wiesenthal as he was abroad completing an official visit to the United States and the United Nations. Since taking office in 2003, Mr. Shalom has led Israel's efforts in the international arena particularly in Europe to combat anti-Semitism and promote Holocaust remembrance. It was at his instigation that the UN convened last January in a unique Special Session to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the death camps. This month the UN General Assembly is expected to adopt a resolution initiated by Israel and co-sponsored by Europe, the US and others committing all nations to educate about the Holocaust and its lessons. Recognizing the significance of Wiesenthal's life's work, Shalom referred to Wiesenthal in his address to the UN General Assembly on September 20, just a few hours after Wiesenthal's passing, urging the international community to continue on his path, to remember and to act. At the foreign minister's initiative, the Foreign Ministry will be holding a special event to commemorate Wiesenthal and his work on November 9, to be attended by leading Israeli and international figures. By that, the foreign minister and the ministry will continue to lead the fight against anti-Semitism across the world. ILAN OSTFELD Media Adviser to the Foreign Minister Jerusalem Weather vane Sir, As the days approach, there are people in the world saying, "Of course the weather will be beautiful on Tuesday and Wednesday; it's the Jewish New Year." If people really believe that God looks so favorably on the Jewish people as to make sure the weather is perfect on their highest of holy days, why then do so many in the world look disdainfully and hatefully at the existence of the Jews? IRENE GOLDSMITH East Elmhurst, New York Help me to help them get beyond the pain Sir, In contrast to all the appeals to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina, I have not been able to find the same with regard to helping the families displaced by the disengagement. My children are doing their part through their schools, but it is not so obvious what someone like me can do on a daily or weekly basis. At this point I am not a "Rightie" or a "Leftie," neither pro nor against. I just want to help this country help its people move beyond the pain. We need to take care of our own, and "regular" people like me need to know how they can help those in need right here. The deed has been done and many among us feel broken. But we need to put political opinions aside and come together to help each other rebuild what has been given, or taken, away. If we don't, the wounds will never heal. I never want my children to ask: Where were you? Please let me know about any organized efforts. S. LAUFER Jerusalem Homeless at home Sir, Thank you to Chaim Steinmetz for mentioning the homeless crisis right here, among the expellees of Gush Katif ("What I'm praying for this Rosh Hashana," October 2). Indeed, most Israelis are completely unaware that the vast majority of those 9,000 people who lost everything are still without homes, jobs and permanent schooling arrangements for their children. The one thing left to them is their community, and yet the government is refusing to deal with them on a community level. So we have the people from Atzmona living in tents in an abandoned warehouse structure outside Netivot, those from Elei Sinai in even worse conditions in tents outside Yad Mordechai, and thousands of others in guest houses and hotels with no idea where they will be living or working. It behooves all caring Jews to drive down to see these places for themselves. There are no secrets here, the information about each community is available on the Internet and elsewhere. Only seeing our homegrown homeless crisis with one's own eyes can make plain the seriousness of it. Not so long ago these people were hard-working, self-sufficient tax-paying citizens. To echo Rabbi Steinmetz, may this year and its curses come to an end. Part of that is up to the Divine, but most of it is up to us. DEBORAH BUCKMAN Beit Shemesh Following are some of the most active volunteer organizations and individuals helping the displaced people of Gush Katif. There is also an active e-mail list at gush_katif@yahoogroups.com for up-to-date postings in English of offers and requests for help. Many of the requests are for cash since hundreds of families have still not received any compensation at all and still have to pay for food, travel, clothing, tuition, medicine etc.
  • The Council of Gush Katif Settlers. This is the central umbrella organization representing and assisting the evacuees, headed by Rabbi Yigal Kaminetsky in conjunction with Lema'an Acheinu. Lema'an Acheinu is responsible for coordinating volunteer activities and distributing practical aid throughout the country. To volunteer or donate, call (02) 509-0111 between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. Fax (02) 509-0110. Donation hotline 1599-55-77-78. Direct deposit into a bank account: Bank Mizrahi, Branch 491, account no. 11296.
  • Keren Hatzaddik (in memory of Rabbi Aryeh Levin). Food distribution to tent cities and other evacuee groups around the country. To donate, tel. (02) 651-3111 or 1800-203-320. www.tmicha.org; jewish@netvision.net.il
  • Lema'an Achai Ramat Bet Shemesh (www.lemaanachai.org) is establishing a free-loan fund for evacuees from all communities, plus counseling and other activities. It is currently assisting evacuees from Atzmona housed in Sha'alvim dormitories through provision of food and practical supplies. Israel tax-deductible donations should be made out to Lema'an Achai, earmarked Gush Katif Fund, and sent to Lema'an Achai (RBS), Nachal Lachish 40/7, Ramat Beit Shemesh 99093. US tax-deductible checks to American Friends of Lema'an Achai; on memo line indicate Gush Katif Fund, c/o Simon Fleischer, 35 West 96th St No. 1F, New York, NY 10025. Twenty-four-hour credit card donations may be made through (02) 999-9933; or contact Yehudit Shaulzon (02) 999-1553. creditcard@lemaanachai.org
  • One of the main problems is unemployment. A list has been set up to try to find new employment for evacuees. To post a job vacancy, e-mail jobkatif@hotmail.co.il or call (08) 672-7703.
  • A group of volunteers has created a site www.jobkatif.org.il featuring work positions from all over Israel. Priority will be given to people who have lost their homes in Gush Katif.
  • Rachel Saperstein, formerly of Neveh Dekalim and currently in the Jerusalem Gold Hotel, has established a Band-Aid Fund providing anonymous cash donations of NIS 500 to NIS 1,000 to meet urgent expenses of evacuee families. To contribute, send checks to The Central Fund of Israel, Jay Marcus, Rehov Hagoel 13, Efrat 90435; earmarked for Rachel Operation Band-Aid.
  • Ruthi Brenner is seeking sponsors for evacuee university students who were unable to work this summer to put themselves through college and may have to forfeit their studies as a result. Brenner says that $5,000 paid directly to the university would cover a full year of college tuition. She would be happy to put sponsors in contact with their "adopted" students. Contact her at luveretz@netvision.net.il or tel. (02) 561-1962.
  • Bracha Jaffe is helping the mostly secular families who were or still are housed at the Green Beach Hotel near Netanya. She can be contacted for offers of help and donations for the families at (054) 761-7988, or bracha@tdsoft.com
  • Katherine (Gita) Weiner is aiding those in the City of Faith, a tent/trailer city set up by 35 Atzmona families, who need help with construction and caravan repairs, microwaves and/or toasters to give at least some independence to families as far as food is concerned; also equipment for preschool/kindergarten and monetary donations. Contact Ms. Weiner at izgnanie@yahoo.com
  • Barbara Silverman, (02) 623-2548, and attorney Jan Sokolsky, (02) 566-6388, are raising funds for new winter coats for evacuees in Jerusalem, plus more winter clothing, winter shoes and holiday prayer books. They also need volunteers to take groups of children away from confining hotel rooms to parks, etc.
  • Sarah Alpert is working with Anita Tucker to provide financial help for the families of Netzer Hazani in the Golan and elsewhere for purchasing winter clothing, and for travel expenses and other practical needs. Contact them at salpert@jfsisrael.org
  • Seeking used (but working) laptops, preferably with word, excel and wireless ability, to assist community leaders in their administrative work and enable the physically scattered evacuees to reconnect and coordinate with one another through virtual communities. Please contact wisemon@actcom.net.il
  • In the US, Rabbi Pesach Lerner, executive director of the National Council of Young Israel, has agreed to assist in this effort. He visited Israel in order to see the situation for himself. Checks can be made out to Young Israel Charity Fund. Gush Katif Fund, NCYI, 3 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011.