WZO calls on US Jews not to take Yemenites to Satmar community

We must respect the emigres' choice, UJC says in response.

Satmar NY 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Satmar NY 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The World Zionist Organization executive called on the communal umbrella of American Jewry to stop the fundraising effort meant to move Yemenite Jews to a Satmar community in Monsey, New York. The Jerusalem-based WZO, whose leaders form part of the leadership of the Jewish Agency, disapproves of the United Jewish Communities' efforts on behalf of the move because the Yemenites will be joining an anti-Zionist community. "Bringing Yemenite Jews to the Satmar community is an anti-Zionist activity, because it's bringing Jews to a place that doesn't really recognize the State of Israel," said Paula Edelstein, who sits on the WZO executive and is co-chair of the Jewish Agency's Immigration and Absorption Committee. The WZO statement, which is being finalized and will only be released on Tuesday, "is a strong call for the UJC to stop its activities encouraging the immigration of Yemenite Jews to the US," according to agency and WZO spokesman Gil Litman. Some 113 Yemenite Jews are expected to leave Yemen for the United States in the coming weeks, aided by the US State Department and Jewish refugee agencies in the US. Many of the remaining 160 or so Jews in the country are expected to eventually come to Israel, Jewish Agency officials believe. The push to pull the Jews out of Yemen comes in the wake of attacks and threats against their property and lives made by radical Islamist groups or individuals. Most of the Jews currently live under the protection of the Yemeni government. The Yemenite Jews "don't really have freedom of choice because they're under a great deal of pressure," said Edelstein. "The Satmars have worked on them for a long time. "We believe they should be offered the option of coming to Israel, and that the UJC, which is a partner of the Jewish Agency, shouldn't be raising money to bring them to the Satmar community without making every effort to offer them the option of coming to Israel first," she said. UJC spokesman Dani Wassner rejected the criticism, saying "we continue to support, finance and encourage aliya and we would be delighted if the Yemenite Jews chose to go to Israel. If [the Yemenite Jews] make this decision, JAFI and the WZO know very well that they can count on our 100% support." Wassner added that "it is our belief that every effort has been made to offer them the option of coming to Israel. UJC encourages [the Jewish Agency] to further efforts to bring these Yemenite Jews to Israel, and would applaud any and every step in that direction." "Edelstein acknowledges that in this case, the Yemenite Jews have chosen to go to the US and, as in the past, UJC supports their freedom of choice, and their rights to immigrate," Wassner said.