Dramatic video of IsraAID teams helping refugees on Lesbos

israaid_greece_lesbos1

The Kikar Ha Shabat web portal posted a very dramatic video of an IsraAID medical team treating and assisting refugees on the very beaches of the Greek island of Lesbos, literally the front line of the refugee crisis. The description of the ordeals the refugees go through to reach Lesbos are harrowing to say the least. Mistreated and exploited by smugglers in Turkey, refugees are crowded 150 on boats meant for only a third of that number, with barely enough fuel in the engine to reach halfway to Greece.

But those who manage to reach Lesbos find a well organized and highly efficient IsraAID team of medical and aid volunteers. Boats are tracked as soon as they come into binocular range, and medical assistance, warm cloth and sustenance is provided the moment the refugees are helped out of the boats onto the beach. And the comfort and relief a refugee experiences on finding Arabic speakers among the rescue team cannot be overstated.

Nor the personal risks that the IsraAID team members run. Needless to say, they have no idea who they will be meeting on the beaches of Lesbos on any given day, only that they will be strangers, not just from Syria, but from other countries that have traditionally been hostile to Jews and Israelis.

And that they are strangers in need of help. After days and possibly weeks of being exploited at the hands of remorseless human smugglers, and risking their lives on a terrifying journey to a strange land, the welcome and assistance provided by the IsraAID volunteers is something no refugee will forget for the rest of their lives.

To see the video in its entirety click here.

2016-02-23T20:05:34+00:00 February 23rd, 2016|

Tablet Magazine; Canadian Jewish congregations & their efforts to sponsor Syrian refugees

Photo by Tablet Magazine

Photo by Tablet Magazine

Tablet Magazine has an excellent article by Philip Moscovitch on the recent efforts by Canadian-Jewish congregations to sponsor and support Syrian refugee families to resettle in Canada. From Vancouver to Alberta, Toronto and Montreal, and many smaller towns and cities, more than two dozen congregations have raised funds and committed to sponsoring Syrian families under Canada’s Private Sponsorship Program.

With no similar program in place in the USA, Jewish congregations in the USA with a desire to assist Syrian refugees, such as the Community Synagogue of Rye, New York, have contributed to the efforts of their Canadian counterparts with huge monetary donations.

The understandable apprehension and ambivalence of many in the Canadian Jewish community to bringing in families from a region whose people have traditionally been hostile to Jews is acknowledged in the article. As one Temple Sholom said; “I don’t hate Muslims, but I am afraid.”

Which makes the efforts by Canada’s Jewish communities to assist Syrians all the more remarkable. The highest expression of humanity is to help a stranger when every survival instinct tells one not to, to take responsibility for a family who may have spent their lives in an environment with values in stark contrast to your own, to give so much effort, time and money on a people who have nothing to offer back except their thanks. The generous sentiments of Jewish communities, in Canada and around the world towards Syrian refugees is not only remarkable, it is miraculous.

To read the original Tablet Magazine article, click here.

2016-02-21T05:15:20+00:00 February 21st, 2016|

Operation Ezra; the efforts of Winnipeg’s Jewish communities to save Yazidi families

Operation Ezra

 

The Canadian Jewish News has an article on the massive efforts by Winnipeg’s Jewish community to sponsor Yazidi families for resettlement in Canada. Working under the name Operation Ezra, the initiative combines the efforts of Winnipeg’s Jewish congregations and groups, including the newly formed “Winnipeg United with Israel“, to save as many Yazidi families as possible.

To date, the initiative has raised over $180,000, enough to sponsor 35 individuals. The first two Yazidi families have been given approval by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to travel to Winnipeg, and should be arriving soon.

There is no doubt that the Yazidi community has been subjected to a genocide at the hands of the so-called self-styled “Islamic State”. But even those Yazidis who have managed to flee Daesh face discrimination and hostility even among other refugee populations. The only ethnic group in the Middle East not to have their own self-protection militias, the Yazidis have been mercilessly persecuted by other groups in the region. Yazidi women and girls captured by Daesh have been exploited as sex slaves, while Yazidi men were massacred on a genocidal scale.

Operation Ezra, which shares its name with the 1950s rescue of 130,000 Iraqi Jews to Israel via Cyprus, is the Winnipeg Jewish community’s response to this massive humanitarian catastrophe. The Arab countries in the region have once again failed utterly to step up and counter the barbaric atrocities committed by other fellow Arabs. An ocean and continent away, Canadian Jews have yet again demonstrated humanity, compassion and an tireless energy in saving lives torn apart by a conflict that Canadians could have very easily ignored. In the darkness created by the Middle East’s conflicts, the light of humanity created by groups such as those involved in Operation Ezra shines that much more brightly.

To read the original CJN article, click here.

To read the Operation Ezra website, click here.

2016-02-18T00:09:44+00:00 February 18th, 2016|

Vice News’ in-depth report & video on Israeli hospital treating Syrians

 

A patient being transported to Ziv Medical Center by the IDF (Photo via Ziv Medical Center)

A patient being transported to Ziv Medical Center by the IDF (Photo via Ziv Medical Center)

Back in July 2015 Vice News published a 30 minute video and an in-depth report by Sara E. Williams on the medical care and treatment being provided to wounded Syrians by Israel’s Ziv Medical Center, a hospital just 40 minutes away from the border with Syria.

The report makes for remarkable reading. Of the more than 2,000 Syrians who were treated at Ziv since early 2013, over 340 were children. While amputations are the expected outcome for patients who are treated in Jordan, the Israeli medical teams in Ziv have managed to save all except a very few number of limbs. Among Syrians, Israeli hospitals have acquired a near legendary reputation. As one member of the staff at Ziv put it; “they think we can do miracles so they bring lost cases”.

And in Israel, political or military affiliation is never a factor in whether a patient receives treatment. True to the spirit and letter of the Hippocratic Oath, Israeli doctors do not withhold treatment based on political feelings. It is a far cry from the common practice in Syria itself, where wounded demonstrators would face torture or be killed outright if they ended up in a hospital controlled by the regime.

The community in which the hospital is located have also shown a tremendous amount of generosity towards the Syrian patients, donating items and funds for prosthetic limbs and dental surgery.

To read the lengthy report and see the video, click here.

2016-02-10T19:09:54+00:00 February 10th, 2016|

Winnipeg Jewish School sponsoring seven refugee families

Gray-Academy

 

Canadian CTV News has a video report on the Winnipeg based Gray Academy of Jewish Education’s sponsorship of seven refugee families, and the donation drive the student body undertook to ensure the families were supplied with household and kitchen items.

To mark its commemoration of Raul Wallenberg day (a Swedish diplomat who saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews) the school organized donations of utensils, towels, toothbrushes and toothpastes and other household items. In the words of one of the students “even if it’s with the little things, any little thing can help them out”

But to a refugee, no act of kindness is too little. Indeed, it is the “little” things that refugees remember. Unwelcoming shop keepers. Dirty looks on public transportation. Unfriendly and hostile neighbors. A refugee can survive in their host country only to the degree to which that society tolerates their presence. With their act of generosity, the students of Gray Academy are telling the families who will soon resettle in Winnipeg; “not only are you tolerated in our city, we welcome you as neighbors and friends, with open arms.”

To a refugee, a donated plate, table cloth or chair symbolizes far more than their material worth. Most refugees would be happy with indifference as opposed to hostility from the communities they settle in. But if household items could speak, each one donated by the students of Gray Academy would say “welcome to Canada.”

To see the CTV video report click here.

 

2016-02-07T20:12:39+00:00 February 7th, 2016|

British-Jewish Peer & Kindertransport survivor calls on government to help child refugees

British Peer Lord Alf Dubs

British Peer Lord Alf Dubs

British Lord Alf Dubs, a Labour Peer and who as a child was one of the hundreds of Jewish children saved by the Kindertransport rescue efforts, has called on the government of the United Kingdom to take in the approximately 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees currently in continental Europe, in addition to the government’s already stated intentions of resettlement child refugees from camps in the Middle East.

Lord Dubs was born in Prague, and was among the more than nine hundred Jewish children saved from Nazi occupation through the efforts of the British humanitarian, the late Sir Nicholas Winton.

Commenting on the humanitarian catastrophe created by the wars in the Levant, the Jewish Chronicle quotes Lord Bubs;

“They are mainly from Syria and face a cold winter without adequate food or warmth and are vulnerable to child traffickers and the danger of being forced into prostitution.

“This is a humanitarian challenge which we must not shirk.

Reports have been circulating in the media on fears that as many as 10,000 child refugees may be missing in Europe, with Europol warning that some European gangs could very well have targeted vulnerable minors for sex work and slavery.

Many prominent Jewish organizations and individuals in the United Kingdom have come out strongly and publicly in support of the resettlement of child refugees to the UK, a charitable attitude that stands in stark contrast to the unforgiving and unsympathetic view across the Atlantic among some American politicians, with one presidential candidate voicing his objection to allowing even “five year old Syrian orphans” asylum in the USA.

To read the original article from the Jewish Chronicle, click here.

2016-02-05T20:10:35+00:00 February 5th, 2016|

Morning Star article;assistance by British Jewish communities to Syrian refugees

The UK based Morning Star ran an article highlighting the numerous initiatives by Britain’s Jewish communities to help Syrian refugees, both in Europe and the UK itself. The piece noted that while political opinions vary widely among Britain’s Jewish communities, by and large they have been very supportive and involved in efforts to help and assist refugees coming to the UK.

Some have suggested that the Jewish community is only concerned about crime and terrorism, that Jews are more in line with Ukip policy in opposing migration, especially from Muslim countries.

But this could not be further from the truth. For many of us it is heartbreaking that in 2016 there are still people living in refugee camps who are struggling to survive.

This feeling is not confined to Jews on the left, such as myself. It is shared by others who are non-political or even right-wing

The piece goes on to mention in detail the numerous Jewish congregations, celebrities and political activists who have come out in favor of assistance to refugees, and the efforts they have undertaken to alleviate the hardships experienced by those fleeing the Middle East to Europe and the UK.

To read the entire article click here.

2016-02-04T19:07:52+00:00 February 4th, 2016|

World Jewish Relief provides training to Syrian refugees in the UK

LRJlfH_web_UK based Jewish News has a report on an initiative by the World Jewish Relief to provide language and employment training to Syrian refugees in the United Kingdom, utilizing its experience from providing similar services in Eastern Europe.

The program will focus on cities earmarked by the UK government for refugee resettlement, and will offer “personalized services” to around 1000 refugees.

This would not be the World Jewish Relief’s first program in assisting Syrian refugees. Previously, the organization had raised an incredible £820,000 in donations to assist refugees in Turkey and Greece. The organization also has long standing aid efforts focused on helping Syrian refugees in Jordan.

After shelter, the first priority for any refugee is to become self sufficient. That means finding employment and learning the language of their new homes. By focusing on these areas, the World Jewish relief has demonstrated that they know exactly where and how assistance to refugees can be best focused and would provide the most benefit.

To read the Jewish News article, click here.

2016-02-03T20:41:27+00:00 February 3rd, 2016|

Jewish Center of Princeton offers to house Syrian refugee family

jewish-center-of-princeton

NJ.com has an article on the offer by the Jewish Center of Princeton to provide housing for a Syrian refugee family, in the event of one being accepted for resettlement in the New Jersey area. The idea of housing a refugee family was first proposed to the congregation by Rabbi Adam Feldman during the last Sukkot holiday, a time associated with “creating peaceful shelters”.

The resettlement process to the USA is typical a lengthy one, taking at least two years for Syrian refugees, but shelter and housing are always the top priorities of any refugee family that resettle to the USA. To this end the Jewish Center of Princeton have been in contact with other agencies helping refugees in the New Jersey area, such as the HIAS and First Friends of New Jersey & New York Corp to help connect a refugee family with the center.

A congregation member,Melissa Hageri, expressed in a letter the sentiments behind the center’s desire to assist a Syrian refugee family;

We know what it means to be homeless, made to leave places we once called home and to wander seeking freedom.  We have been, at various times in our history, refugees and strangers in strange lands.

To read the entire article click here.

2016-02-02T19:03:35+00:00 February 2nd, 2016|

BBC; revolutionary Israeli procedure that rebuilt a wounded Syrian’s face

The_logo_of_rambam_health_care_campus_cIn February 2015 the BBC ran a remarkable article on a revolutionary procedure carried out by Israel’s Rambam Hospital to rebuild a wounded Syrian farmer’s face, using a titanium jaw created via a 3D printer.

The procedure was the first of its kind in Israel, having been pioneered only a few years previously in Europe.

The Haifa based Rambam hospital treats around one fifth of the total number of wounded Syrians who come to or are sent to Israel for treatment.

To read the entire article and view the video report, click here.

2016-01-30T23:04:16+00:00 January 30th, 2016|
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