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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 30th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Be’chol Lashon is the Hebrew for “In Every Tongue” and it advocates for the Growth & Diversity of the Jewish People. Today Jews come indeed in every color and every stripes and some leaders do the outreach to embrace them all. Just look at Dr. Lewis Gordon of the Center for Afro-Jewish Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia, Mr. Romiel Daniel of Queens, New York, The head of Jews of India in our region, Dr. Ephraim Isaac, of the institute for Semitic Studies. They do not look like your stereotype Jew. I met them and was impressed – the latter actually for the first time as we both visited Addis Ababa at the time of the delayed Ethiopian Millennium. Then Rabbi Hailu Paris with his communities in Brooklyn and the Bronx, Ethiopian born and graduae of Yeshiva University, and his Assistant Monica Wiggan (www.blackjews.org/Essays/RabbiParisEthiopianTrip.html), and Rabbi Gershom Sizomu of the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda from whom I got a very distinctive kippah with the menorah – of the old temple worked in. Then Dr. Rabson Wuriga of the Hamisi Lemba clan in South Africa and Zimbabwe and so on – in Nigeria, in Peru, in India, in China.

And who has not heard by now of the present White House Rabbi – Cappers Funnye – the cousin of Michelle Obama – and associate director of Bechol Lashon and spiritual leader of Beth Shalom B’nei Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation of Chicago?

The New York regional director of DiverseJews.org is Lacey Schwartz who is also National Outreach Director of BecholLashon.org, assisted by Collier Meyerson and to top it all Davi Cheng, Director of the Los Angeles region is Jewish, Chinese, and Lesbian. As I said it is all a new image of the Jew.

Last night, at the Gallery Bar, 120 Orchard St., NYC there was a Shemspeed Summer Music Festival event.

The two further upcoming events in New York will be on:

Monday, August 2nd – the Shemspeed Hip Hop Fest at Le Poisson Rouge – 158 Bleeker Street NYC Featuring Tes Uno, Ted King & guest Geng Grizlee and others with CD Release parties for “A Tribe Called Tes” and “Move On.”

Thursday, August 5th – Shemspeed Jewish Punk Fest at Pianos, 158 Ludlow Street, NYC Featuring Moshiach Oil & The Groggers.

info on each event above and at shemspeed.com/fest

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Mona Eltahawy
A Jewish Woman Living in Ethiopia


Rethinking How U.S. Jews Fund Communities Around the World.

The Forward
Published: May 27, 2010

For more than half a century, North America’s Jewish federation system has divided its overseas allocations between the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Joint Distribution Committee. The Jewish Agency has been dedicated to building up Israel and encouraging aliyah, while the Joint has focused on aiding Jewish communities in need around the globe.

Today, both agencies are working to assert their continued relevance in a changing Jewish world. With aliyah slowing, the Jewish Agency is moving toward embracing a new agenda: promoting the concept of Jewish peoplehood. The JDC, meanwhile, has sought to claim a larger share of the communal pie, which had long been split 75%-25% in the Jewish Agency’s favor.

After a recent round of sniping over the funding issue, the two sides are now stepping back from their public confrontation and recommitting to negotiations over the future of the collective funding arrangement. Underlying this fight, however, is a more fundamental tension over communal funding priorities: Should overseas aid be focused on helping needy Jews and assisting communities that have few resources of their own, or should it be used to bolster Jewish identity?

With this debate raging, the Forward asked a diverse group of Jewish thinkers and communal activists from around the world to weigh in and address the following question: How should North America’s Jewish community be thinking about its priorities and purposes in funding Jewish needs abroad?

New Century, New Priorities

By Yossi Beilin

During the 20th century, the challenges facing world Jewry were the following: rescue of Jews who encountered existential danger, assistance to Israel, helping with the absorption of those who immigrated to new countries and opening the gates for those who were denied the right to emigrate. In the 21st century, ensuring Jewish continuity is the greatest challenge facing the Jewish people.

Yet too often Jewish organizations in the United States and elsewhere remain focused on the challenges of the previous century. (Indeed, Jewish groups were not very receptive when I first proposed the idea for Birthright Israel 17 years ago.)

Ensuring the existence of Jewish life (religious and secular) throughout the world via Jewish education, encounters between young Israeli and Diaspora Jews, creating a virtual Jewish community using new technologies — these must be at the top of the global Jewish agenda. This requires American Jewish philanthropy and leadership, which in turn requires discerning between past and present priorities.

Yossi Beilin, a former justice minister of Israel, is president of the international consulting firm Beilink.

Reviving Polish Jewry

By Konstanty Gebert

The rebirth of Central European Jewish communities after 1989, though numerically not very impressive, remains significant for moral and historical reasons. It is also crucial for Jewish self-understanding. An enormous proportion of American Jews can trace their origins to what used to be Poland alone. This is where much of Diaspora history happened.

Alongside the courage and determination of local Jews, the far-sighted support of several American Jewish organizations and philanthropies made this rebirth possible. In Poland the Joint Distribution Committee, the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation and the Taube Foundation played key roles. Their support has translated not only into Jewish schools and festivals in places once believed to be Jewish-ly dead, but also in most cases into changed relations between local Jewish communities and their fellow citizens as well as clear support for Israel on the part of these countries’ governments.

Yet for all this progress, Central European Jewish communities might never become self-financing. The support given them by American Jewry remains a vital Jewish interest. It must be strengthened.

Konstanty Gebert, a former underground journalist, is a columnist at the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza and founder of the Polish-language Jewish monthly Midrasz.

What We Give Ourselves

By Lisa Leff

More than any Jewish community in history, postwar American Jews have used our prosperity to help Jewish communities around the world. On one level, the greatest beneficiaries of this support have been Jews abroad. But we should also recognize that these philanthropic efforts have shaped our communal values and identity.

Through our international aid, we have dedicated ourselves to universalist and cosmopolitan ideas like tikkun olam and solidarity across borders. In helping disadvantaged and oppressed Jews abroad, we have also deepened our community’s commitments to democracy, human rights and economic justice for all. It’s only natural that Jewish groups pitch in on Haitian earthquake relief and advocate on behalf of oppressed people of all backgrounds.

Whatever the outcome of the federations’ deliberations over how to divide allocations between the Jewish Agency and the Joint Distribution Committee, it is imperative that American Jewry maintain its commitment to our values through supporting international philanthropy.

Lisa Leff is an associate professor of history at American University and the author of “Sacred Bonds of Solidarity: The Rise of Jewish Internationalism in Nineteenth-Century France” (Stanford University Press, 2006).

Putting Identity First

By Jonathan S. Tobin

The choices we face are not between good causes and bad or even indifferent ones but between vital Jewish obligations. But since the decline in giving to Jewish causes means that we must make tough decisions, programs that reinforce Jewish identity and support Zionism both in the Diaspora and in Israel must be accorded a higher priority.

At this point in our history, with assimilation thinning the ranks of Diaspora Jewry and with continuity problems arising even in Israel, the need to instill a sense of membership in the Jewish people is an imperative that cannot be pushed aside. Under the current circumstances, absent an effort that will make Jewish and Zionist education the keynote of our communal life, the notion that Jewish philanthropies or support for Israel can be adequately sustained in the future is simply a fantasy.

Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of Commentary magazine.

Collective Responsibility

By Richard Wexler

One cannot have a meaningful discussion about framing the national Jewish community’s priorities and purposes in funding Jewish needs abroad without first asking the question: Is there actually a collective “North American Jewish community” today?

Collective responsibility has been and remains the foundation upon which the federation system and, therefore, the national Jewish community are built. It is what distinguishes the federations from all other charities. It is embodied in our participation in the adventure of building Israel and in meeting overseas needs through the Jewish Agency and the Joint Distribution Committee, in the dues that federations pay to the Jewish Federations of North America and so much more. But today, federations “bowl alone.”

Collective responsibility gives meaning to kol Yisrael arevim zeh l’zeh — all Jews are responsible for one another. Until federations understand once again that Jewish needs extend beyond the borders of any one community, we cannot have a meaningful priority-setting process for funding Jewish needs abroad.

Richard Wexler is a former chairman of the United Israel Appeal.

Originally published here: www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/rethinking-how-u-s-jews-fund-communities-around-the-world-1.292527

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Avi Rosenblum
Rabbi Gershom Sizomu and Be’chol Lashon director Diane Tobin at the opening of the Health Center.


Gary Tobin’s Legacy Lives on in New Ugandan Health Center

By Amanda Pazornik

The J Weekly
Published: July 22, 2010

On the day of the grand opening of the Tobin Health Center in Mbale, Uganda, health professionals were already hard at work treating patients inside.

The center was open for business, but that didn’t slow down the lively June 18 celebration, which featured song and dance performances and speakers. About 3,000 people gathered at the center’s grounds to mark the occasion.

Seated under colorful tents was Diane Tobin, director of S.F.-based Be’chol Lashon and wife of the late Gary Tobin, for whom the center is named, along with three of their children, Aryeh, Mia and Jonah.

“Everyone was amazing, friendly and so generous of spirit,” said Tobin, who was visiting Uganda and its Abayudaya Jewish community for the first time. “They were so appreciative of having the center and demonstrated a tremendous willingness to work together. It’s a great model for the rest of the world.”

Andrew Esensten, Be’chol Lashon program coordinator, and Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, spiritual leader of the Abayudaya Jews and the first chief rabbi of Uganda, joined them, in addition to government and medical officials, and representatives from Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities.

The Tobin Health Center is named for Gary Tobin, the founder of the S.F.-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research, of which Be’chol Lashon (“In Every Tongue”) is an initiative. Tobin died one year ago after a long battle with cancer. He was 59.

“He really has left a legacy,” said Debra Weinberg of Baltimore, who attended the opening with her husband, Joe, and their 14-year-old son, Ben. The couple also helped fund the project. “I think he would feel deeply comforted to know it’s improving the lives of people.”

The 4,000-square-foot facility is a major component of the ongoing Abayudaya Community Health and Development Project undertaken by the Abayudaya Executive Council and Be’chol Lashon, a nonprofit that reaches out to Jews of color and helps educate the mainstream community about Jewish diversity.

It cost approximately $250,000 to erect the two-story center, using donations collected over five years. While patients pay for their services, continuous fundraising is a necessity, Tobin said.

Construction began in July 2009, enabling more than 50 Africans from diverse ethnic backgrounds to earn a living.

Stars of David are featured in the window grids, ceilings and floors of the health center, a “lovely expression of their Judaism,” Tobin said. Private rooms make up most of the top floor, with patient wards on the ground floor. A mezuzah is affixed to every door.

A large portrait of Gary Tobin hangs in the lobby.

“It’s so heartwarming,” Diane Tobin said of the visual tribute. “Gary would be so honored to have this health center in the middle of Africa named after him.”

Prior to the opening of the Tobin Health Center, the nearest medical facility to the Abayudaya Jews was Mbale Hospital, an overcrowded and understaffed institution not accessible to all the residents of the region. Tobin said there are other clinics in the area, but they lack the preventive health care measures necessary to respond to the community’s needs.

The Tobin Health Center is licensed by the Ministry of Health and is certified to operate a pharmacy and laboratory. It serves all who seek basic medical care in the region, providing life-saving health services and simultaneously creating jobs.

“The goal is to raise the standard of medical care,” Tobin said.

In addition, rental units on the bottom and top floors of the center will provide more job opportunities for locals. The first business recently opened — a hardware store that sells bags of cement, plumbing equipment and sheet metal — with a beauty salon and video rental outlet in the works.

The center “is rewarding on a number of levels,” said Steven Edwards of Laguna Beach, who, along with his wife, Jill, has been involved with the Abayudaya for six years. “The most obvious is to see this beautiful, clean building. On top of that, local dignitaries noted how lucky Mbale is to have the Jewish community and how much they contribute to the larger community by bringing jobs.”

The Abayudaya Jews comprise a growing, 100-year-old community of more than 1,000 Jews living among 10,000 Christians and Muslims. They live in scattered villages in the rolling, green hills of eastern Uganda. The largest Abayudaya village, Nabagoye, is near Mbale, the seventh-largest city in Uganda and the location of the center.

Research conducted by Be’chol Lashon in 2006 showed that contaminated water and malaria-carrying mosquitoes pose the biggest health risks to the community. A year later, the organization launched the Abayudaya Community Health and Development Project with the drilling of the first well in Nabagoye.

Since then, nearly 1,000 mosquito nets have been purchased and distributed throughout the community.

“Our goal is to respond to the needs of communities,” Tobin said. “If there are other communities that need health centers, we will be there.”

Originally published here: www.jweekly.com/article/full/58727/s.f.-researchers-legacy-lives-on-in-new-ugandan-health-center/

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