Archive for the ‘Ethiopia’ Category

Commentary: Sara Netanyahu steps up for immigrant children

August 15, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–Sara Netanyahu is not one of the most well regarded first ladies of the world. She is known for yelling and throwing things at the household help. She has been the target of civil actions for not paying what is required, and–along with her husband–the subject of police inquiries for fiddling with government funds.

Mrs. Netanyahu has most recently come to attention for writing a letter to Eli Yishai, the Interior Minister with direct responsibility for dealing with illegal immigrants.

“I turn to you as the mother of two sons and as a psychologist . . . I ask from the bottom of my heart that you use your authority to allow a vast majority of the remaining 400 children to remain in Israel. This issue is very close to my heart.”

Yishai is the Knesset leader of the SHAS party of Sephardi ultra-Orthodox, who often speaks out on matters of maintaining the ultra-Orthodox exemption from military service and other issues important to his community. He led the faction against allowing any of the immigrant children to remain in Israel, emphasizing the threat to the society of individuals who are not Jews according to religious law.

For the large number of Israelis who are not fans of either Sara or SHAS, this might be an event to celebrate.

However, many of those Israelis are lining up in behalf of the immigrant children. Joining them are leading media personalities, and Aliza, the politically correct wife of former prime minister Ehud Olmert.

No doubt the kids are here illegally. The government has voted to expel about one-third of some 1,200 children who do not meet criteria of being in Israel for a minimum of years, fluent in Hebrew, and attending Israeli schools. But I am not certain that the government will actually go through with this decision.

It is not only that implementation is not a strong element of Israel’s public administration. Those kids are tugging at a lot of heart strings.

The issue of illegal immigration is no less complex here than in other countries of  Europe and North America where there is work that the locals do not want to do. Housewives complain about the problems of finding and keeping decent help who have legal status. There are a couple of hundred thousand workers here legally to work in construction, agriculture, and the care of the infirm. There are thousands of others who have overstayed their permits, come over the border with Egypt, or entered informally from the West Bank. As elsewhere, there are ugly stories of individuals having to pay bribes in order to obtain work permits, being housed in substandard facilities, or denied proper wages.

Also in the headlines is a gun battle involving Africans coming through the Sinai, who rebelled against the Bedouin smugglers who demanded more money as they approached the Israeli border. Several Africans and Bedouins were killed in that fray, and other Africans died in an incident when Egyptian soldiers opened fire when they refused to surrender.

Other news is that illegal Africans are moving out of a Tel Aviv neighborhood and settling in a lower-priced area of Bnei Brak. That is a low-income, largely ultra-Orthodox suburb of Tel Aviv. What will emerge from that social combine will be interesting to observe. Already the locals are demanding a greater police presence in their community.

There is nothing new in all of this. The Book of Joshua describes the Gibeonites, whose presence among the Israelites was not entirely kosher, but who were allowed to stay and “be woodcutters and water carriers for the entire community.” (Joshua 9:21). (Gibeon, or El Jib, is a Palestinian village alongside Route 443, a few miles west of Jerusalem. Its residents may have to find a way through the barriers in order to get work in Israel, but I would not bet against them.)

When a million immigrants came from the former Soviet Union during the late 1980s onward, they had a major impact on the economy. There were some among them who fit the Gibeon profile as “woodcutters and water carriers,” but for the most part they came as physicians, engineers, scientists, and musicians. They and their children are higher than average in income, education and other social indicators.
More than one hundred thousand Ethiopians are mostly at the bottom of the economy, but there are not enough of them to fill the demand. They do not have the skills of Palestinian or Chinese construction workers, and the rights and social programs of Jewish immigrants may allow them to avoid the least desirable opportunities in the labor market.

Sara’s letter may cause her husband to squirm out of the firm posture about illegal immigrants he articulated a week ago, and lead other Israelis to elevate their feelings toward her, at least for a while. The fate of those 400 children is currently at the top of the emotional agenda. That issue will pass in one way or another, but the larger story of which it is a part will not go away.

Unless someone out there can tell us about a large and untapped pool of poor Jews.

Sharkansky is professor emeritus of politcal science at Hebrew University

Adventures in San Diego Jewish History, August 20, 1954, Part 3

July 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Compiled by the San Diego Jewish World staffSouthwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 5

By Adolph Brodman

News of the Fox

Regular meeting of the Samuel I. Fox Lodge was held on Aug.10.  Brother Morrie Kraus made his official visit and was greeted by one of the largest turnouts that the lodge had had this year.

Convention reports were given by Brothers Morrie Kraus, Stanley Yukon and Dave Schloss.  Many interesting highlights about the convention in San Francisco were told and the delegates came home with many new ideas for their lodge.

Pres. Schloss greeted members and guests and welcomed back 2 brothers who were ill, and vacationing.  We welcomed to lodge Vic Rosenberg and Mr. Leopold.  Pres. Schloss introduced Mrs. Kay Kraus, President of the Birdie Stodel Chapter, who came as a guest.

Brother Joe Kaplan, Secretary of the Lasker Lodge, invited the members to attend their next meeting for a special party on Aug. 23 at the Temple Center.

On August 24, 1t 8 p.m., thre will be the social meeting to which all members and friends are invited.  Come and spend and evening with us, and if you are not a B’nai B’rith member now’s the time to join.

Chaim Weitzman Branch, Poale Zion
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 5

Chaver Jacob Katzman, executive secretary of the Labor Zionist Organization of New York, will be guest speaker at a meeting on Tuesday evening, August 31 at Tifereth Israel Center at 8 p.m.  Reports from the San Diego delegates who will have attended the Los Angeles conference will also be given.

The second annual dinner is scheduled for Sunday, September 19, in the Lounge of the House of Hospitality in Balboa Park.  Following the dinner, there will be an address by Dr. Guy Davis, Professor of Religion, at Chapman College and Vice President of the American Christian Palestine Committee of Los Angeles.  He has recently returned from a trip through Israel and the Arab states.

Reservations may be made with Mrs. Rose Brooker, Mrs. Joe Richlin and Mrs. Bernard Veitzer.


Bay City Women
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 5

All members and friends of San Diego Bay City B’nai B’rith Women’s Chapter No. 713 are reminded that Donor Books must be disposed of in time for the Rotisserie-Broil-Quik Drawing Sunday, Oct 10, at Tifereth Israel Synagogue.

An entertaining evening is planned with a Children’s Aid to Israel Card Party; Mrs. S. Weening is Chairman.  You’ll be glad you came.

Jewish Holidays

Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 5

Rosh Hashanah — Tues and Wed, Sept. 28 and 29, 1 and 2 Tishri

Yom Kippur – Thurs, October 8, 10 Tishri

Succoth – Tues and Wed., Oct 12 and 13, 15 and 16 Tishrei

Shemini Atzereth – Tues, October 19, 22 Tishri

Simcah Torah – Wed., October 20, 23 Tishri

Chanukah –7 and Shemini Atzereth, Oct. 19; Monday, December 20-27, 25 Kislev-2 Tishri. 

Yizkor (Memorial) services are held Yom Kippur, October 7.

A Much Needed Project (Editorial)

Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 6

The Jewish Community Study now being conducted under the direction of the Federation of Jewish Agencies is one of the most important tasks ever undertaken in San Diego.  The Jewish Population Census Committee will begin, with the aid of a specially prepared questionnaire, a survey to determine the composition of the Jewish Community, their affiliations and their needs. They will also learn the numbers of Jewish families in this area, their ages, their geographic distribution and their interests.  This is necessary in order to plan intelligently for the future needs of our families, the youth and the aged.

The religious, social and recreational life of our people need such a survey and I no other way can the needs of our people be discovered.  No one should object to the study being made.  Those people who are to be questioned should cooperate fully with the interviewers who have volunteered their services. This survey will be of inestimable worth to our community in the future. The Federation should be congratulated on undertaking this task for the Jewish Community.

Home for the Aged (Editorial)

Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 6

The annual meeting of the Home for the Aged this month will no doubt indicate the interest and activity of a large and devoted group of community-minded people. Starting eight years ago they quickly became known as an organization determined to tackle the problem of the aged in our community.

In less than a year they had purchased a building and with the help of the Women’s Auxiliary and the Guardians, fully equipped and staffed the Home. This was no easy task since many people not only did not help but stood by and criticized their work.

The education of the community was a slow and heartbreaking process but very few of the original group ever lost their interest. Many more have joined their ranks and today they are part of the Federation of Jewish Charities.

With ground being broken this year for a new structure which will house some 25 guests in a modern and fully equipped structure, the culmination of their efforts will be at hand. It has taken many years of study and effort to reach this point and they are to be congratulated.  No more important work exists in this community than planning to care for our aged and infirm elder citizens.  In our humble opinion we as a Jewish community would be derelict in our duty if we fail to provide a proper setting for our aged in their final years.

“Cast me not off in mine old age” is not an idle slogan – it is the plea of people to whom we owe a debt. They have come through the turbulent years and now deserve the peace of old age in an atmosphere of dignity and order. We owe them no less than a building of which we shall all be proud.

Jews in American History~300 Years

Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 6

By Dr. Philip L. Seman, University of Judaism

The story of Judah Philip Benjamin, one of the five Jewish lawyers of the Common Law referred to by Arthur L. Goodhart, Professor of Jurisprudence at Oxford, is of particular interest in a series of articles on American Jewish history, for Benjamin made a contribution to the American as well as the English Bar.   He was Secretary of State in the Confederate States of America.  If the Civil War had turned out differently, the name of Judah P. Benjamin would have been one of the great ones of history, as it is, he is remembered today largely by lawyers.

In spite of his heavy law practice, Benjamin decided in 1842 to go into politics, and was elected as a Whig to the Lower House of the State Legislature. In 1852 he entered national politics when he was elected to the United States Senate.  Before he could take his seat, in 1853, President Fillmore nominated him as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court, the highest honor that had been received by a Jew, but he declined the offer as he preferred a more active political career.

Benjamin was not the first Jewish Senator, as David Levy Yulee of Florida had been elected some years previously, but he was by far the most distinguished one who has ever sat in that body.

In 1861, Benjamin’s career in the Senate came to an end when in 1860, the Southern States made preparations to secede from the Union.  Benjamin in December 1860 delivered a speech in which he justified the doctrine of State rights, and urged tht the parting between the Northern and the Southern States be in peace.

During the Civil War years, Benjamin was President Davis’s closest adviser. When in April 1865 the South lost the war, President Davis, Benjamin and some of the other members of the Cabinet left Richmond, the Confederate capital, and a week later General Lee surrendered to Grant, Benjamin decided that he would never be taken alive and he arrived in England in August 1865.

At age fifty-four it is not easy for a man, who has passed through four years of war to begin a new career under entirely strange conditions in a foreign country.  In 1866 he was called to the English Bar.  To give some idea of the great success he made as a lawyer in England, we are grateful to Prof. Arthur L. Goodhart for the following information:

“In the autumn of 1882 Benjamin who had been injured in an accident, decided to retire from the Bar.  In a speech made by the Lord Chancellor he said that no man in his recollection has possessed greater learning or displayed greater ability or greater zeal for the interests entrusted to him, and he spoke of his ‘highest honour, united with the greatest kindness and generosity.’”

Sir Henry James, the Attorney-General, said of Benjamin: “Who is the man save this one of whom it can be said that he held conspicuous leadership at the Bar of two countries? To this he added “Rivalry with him seemed to create rather than disturb friendship.”  And again when Judah P. Benjamin died in May 1884, the London Times, said in an editorial: “His life was as varied as an Eastern tale, and he carved out for himself by his own unaided exertions, not one but three several histories of great and well earned distinction … No less inherited is that classic resistance to evil fortune which preserved Mr. Benjamin’s ancestors through a succession of exiles and plundering, and reappeared in the Minster of the Confederate cause, together with the same refined apprehension of logical problems which informed the subtleties of the Talmud.”

Max J. Kohler, in the American Jewish Historical Society Publications in 1904, says of Judah P. Benjamin that he was the most distinguished statesman, orator and lawyer that American Jewry has produced.

From Where I Sit
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 6

By Mel Goldberg

There was a patient in a local hospital recently, named Sexauer .. The nurse on the main desk called surgery over the loud speaker system and inquired, “Do you have a Sexauer up there? … “Sex hour,” some witty medico answered, “why we’re so busy up here we haven’t even had time for a coffee break.”  … And that is a true story! …Dave Vogel says that the difference between amnesia and magnesia is: the guy with amnesia doesn’t know where he is going! …

In our little travels, we heard tell of a certain business man who makes it a habit to check his store’s advertising very carefully.  He frequently has been known to tear an “ad” completely apart two hours before deadline of the next day’s paper … One day, his ad agency man was extremely put out, because the merchant tore a full page advertisement into pieces … “You’re not a copywriter or an artist, Mr. So and So,” the advertising man protested, “and you’ve never laid out an ad in your entire life.”  … “That’s right,” said the man who paid the bills.  “I never laid an egg either.  But I’m a better judge of omelettes than any hen in the state of California.”

Can’t pick up a daily paper these days, without reading of some dim-wit who has shot someone with a gun that “wasn’t loaded.” …We ask, how come so many guns hanging around anyway? … The police as we see it, give adequate protection, and we still can’t figure out what kind of hunting is ever in season within the city … For 2-legged quail, you certainly don’t need a gun! ….

 Those little plastic catsup dispensers at the B & L Buffet are treacherous buggers. We sat at the little Lindy’s the other pm, minding our own business when boom—one of the bottles “popped” and a great big gob of catsup sprayed a five foot area … Host Lipton viewed the matter with some satisfaction, however, since it solved a mystery.  A few days ere, a patron was barraged with catsup and he had accused his lunch partner of trying to pull a trick that “wasn’t funny.” …The other chap pleaded innocent and vindicate words like “liar” were hurled across the table … We can now report that a freak vacuum-pressure in the sprayette-type container was the cause of it all… poof …

The Jewish Population Census, now underway, will factuate many things, heretofore assumed… Most enumerators are finding people most cooperative… No reason not to be since the questionnaire was custom-designed for San Diego—and the usual questions of a personal nature that appear on surveys of this sype have been eliminated… In fact, we saw a recent beer survey that was far more personal … Anybody every notice the little café on Washington Street near Mission Hills, where the diners line up to get in for dinner at night. … The place only has about 12 or 14 seats, and we’ve seen people sweating out a chow line there for 45 minutes … What’s the secret of their success?

It was a pleasure to see the movie at the Capri Theatre … Even if the picture had been lousy, we could have enjoyed sleeping in the comfortable seats the management has provided… The theatre owner should find some satisfaction in our critique because we paid the high admission price demanded—and yet, came away –well satisfied with the value received for the money expended … For us, that’s something!  Short hands and deep pockets, you know!

Thoughts while driving: Wonder if the mystery of the Falasha Jews of Ethiopia will ever be solved. Those isolated dark-skinned folks had lost contact with the outside world until about 70 years ago and yet, had retained a fairly pure Orthodox-Judeo culture.  Some theorists believe them to be the Lost Tribe, others say that they are from a group who failed to get across the Red Sea with Moses. Another theory has it that the Falashas are the direct descendents of the union between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. … They have intrigued scientists because in many centuries that they have resided in Africa they have assimilated little of the folkways and mores of their neighboring Africans …

Despite their isolation, Falasha Jews are adept at handicrafts, especially silver and gold working … Side note: Most of the Falashas are first rate jewelry craftsmen—which does not place them very highly with East African society.  For some reason too detailed to go into at this time, all native tribes in the East African countries place the jeweler (goldsmith and silversmith) on the lowest category on the social scale… In many cases they occupy a position not unlike the “untouchables” in the Hindu caste system.

“Adventures in San Diego Jewish History” is sponsored by Inland Industries Group LP in memory of long-time San Diego Jewish community leader Marie (Mrs. Gabriel) Berg. Our “Adventures in San Diego Jewish History” series will be a regular feature until we run out of history.  To find stories on specific individuals or organizations, type their names in our search box.

Can Haredim be governed by Israel’s secular authorities?

June 19, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–It is appropriate to ponder the significance of one hundred thousand ultra-Orthodox demanding independence from the Israeli judiciary. While the Sephardim suffer discrimination in the ultra-Orthodox communities, only a few of their leaders made that point. It was more common for prominent Sephardi rabbis and politicians to join hands with the Ashkenazim, overlook their plight, and insist on religious freedom from the hostile judges of the secular state.

Only about half of the parents ordered to jail actually arrived there. Most of the women disappeared on route.  The police ordered a search, but prosecutors considered a cancellation of their arrest orders. Appeals were being prepared to free all of the parents. Sabbath intervened. The police would not dare go after ultra-Orthodox mothers on the sacred day of rest.

What does this mean for the nature of Israel? Is there nothing the state can do to impose its orders on some 10 percent of the Jewish population? Due to their weight alongside the chronically balanced secular parties, must we continue to fund schools that discriminate ethnically, and do not teach what people need in order to support themselves in a modern society, all the while numbers creep upward as they cleave to “be fruitful and multiply,” and refuse to participate in the defense of a society beset by hostile others?

It is not easy to govern Israel. Alongside tensions and worse that come from Israeli Arabs, those of surrounding countries and their international supporters are issues more prominent domestically between the secular majority, the ultra-Orthodox minority, and floating “traditional” and “Orthodox” communities that can shift to support the ultra-Orthodox in behalf of Judaism.

The Zion conceived by Theodore Herzl was simpler. He came only gradually to recognize the weight of Eastern European Jewry, more religious than the assimilated Western European Jews with whom he identified. He was even less aware of Jews from North Africa, Iraq, Yemen, and Iran, who have come to be a majority in modern Israel, and have intermarried with Europeans to produce an amalgam as much “Israeli” as “Jewish.”

There is no sign that Herzl thought about Jews of Ethiopia, or that he contemplated the problem of Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox who insist on keeping apart from Sephardi ultra-Orthodox at a time when the larger society has moved beyond the acceptance of ethnic segregation.

Israel adheres to the rules of democracy and the nuances of politics. The results are seldom applauded widely, and often invite criticisms for being “undemocratic.” However, democracy pertains more to rules of the game than the nature of results. We can expect a democratic treatment of this latest hiccup in our national history.

Institutions will recognize the power of communities that can produce 100,000 demonstrators, and keep them orderly on a hot day with nothing more untoward than a few cases of fainting and dehydration.

Cosmetic changes are more predictable than extensive reform in the management and finance of schools. Plans are underway for the government to spend more money to expand the colleges that serve the ultra-Orthodox. The purpose is to induce them into a mode of higher education that will prepare them for work rather than to force them out of the religious academies. The IDF has programs to expand its recruitment of the ultra-Orthodox into units that are useful to the military while also accommodating their special needs.

Demographic projections are notoriously problematic. The ultra-Orthodox may not be impervious to economic constraints. The support they receive from the state has never been more than what allows voluntary poverty. There is always a drift out of the community for personal reasons, as well as a drift into the community by individuals coming from secular Jewish and non-Jewish backgrounds.

These fingers will never type in the distant future. We must leave some issues for later generations. The most we can do is to teach them Jewish lessons of coping with constraints, and not giving into the temptation of rushing the Messiah. He/She will come when appropriate. 

Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

University of Haifa to honor Ruth Dayan for work with immigrants, Bedouins

May 25, 2010 Leave a comment

HAIFA (Press Release)–The University of Haifa will award the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, honoris causa, to Mrs. Ruth Dayan during the University’s 38th Meeting of the Board of Governors, which will take place on June 1-3. The honorary doctorate will be conferred upon Mrs. Dayan in recognition of her longstanding contribution to Israel’s economic, cultural and social strength.

The Senate of the University emphasized her extensive contribution to the empowerment of women, immigrants and other groups in Israeli society who – thanks to her guiding hand – succeeded in becoming a pivotal force in society; her sharing her vision and knowledge with other countries and backing them in aspiring toward a more equal society; the great honor that her work has brought to the State of Israel; and her many years of friendship with the University of Haifa.

Mrs. Dayan, born in Haifa in 1917, is a social activist and one of the founders of Variety Israel. With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Mrs. Dayan founded the “Eshet Chayil” (“Woman of Valor”) project on behalf of the Jewish Agency – a project integrating women immigrants into the growing Israeli economy through traditional handicraft work, such as embroidery, weaving and knitting, thereby also preserving the culture and heritage of the Diaspora. Following the success of this project, Mrs. Dayan, then an employee of the Israel Ministry of Labor, founded Maskit, a fashion house that operated from 1954 to 1994 producing local creations combining traditional Eastern art with original Israeli designs. Over the years, Mrs. Dayan continued using traditional arts and crafts as a tool for social change and women’s empowerment. She initiated and advised many handiwork projects for women around the world, such as India, Ethiopia and various South American countries.

Her most recent project, which began in 1991 and continues today, involves assisting Bedouin women to break out of the circle of unemployment in Israel through their traditional embroidery and jewelry designs.

Preceding provided by the University of Haifa

San Diego’s Historic Places: Veterans Memorial Museum hosts exhibit on Japanese-American members of the Armed Forces

May 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Traveling exhibit of the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison


SAN DIEGO—Probably no event has seared into the consciousness of the Japanese-American community more painfully than their forced relocation from their homes on the West Coast of the United States to internment camps in the interior of the country during World War II.

This is the central portion of an exhibit at the Veterans Memorial Museum in Balboa Park that compellingly examines the 20th century history of Japanese American soldiers from San Diego.  The portable exhibit will remain through Memorial Day (May 31) and then be returned to the archives of the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego.

Although the exhibit covers more than 100 years, conceptually it is book-ended by the experiences of Navy cook Sago Takata, who was one of 60 men killed in 1905 when the USS Bennington’s boilers exploded in San Diego Bay, and those of Lt. Cmdr. Craig Osaki, who at the end of the 20th century was an expert in the Iraq War on the use and repair of robots to remove enemy-planted explosive devices.

A few months after Japan’s military forces bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, notices were posted on telephone poles and on walls in San Diego neighborhoods where Japanese Americans were known to live. Families were given one week to pack their belongings and prepare for relocation to the interior. Initially most families from San Diego were taken to the Santa Anita Race Track, where horse stalls served as their temporary homes until an internment camp at Poston, Arizona, could be readied.

Poston was one of ten major internment camps built by the United States government. “From August 1942 until Poston closed in late 1945, the families attempted to live normal lives under circumstances that were anything but normal,” the narrative said.

San Diegan Tetsuzo Hirasaki had been a close friend of the city’s chief librarian Clara Breed. Using a sharpened bed spring, he carved for her from mesquite wood a nameplate that she proudly displayed on her desk at the San Diego Public Library. Instead of being sent to Poston with the rest of his family, Hirasaki’s father, Chiyomatsu, had been sent to camps in North Dakota and New Mexico. The family asked Breed, who wrote a column, to do what she could to help reunite them.

At first, the military was not interested in enlisting Japanese Americans, considering them too great a security risk. Although Mas Tsuida was a seafaring fisherman, the Navy had no desire for his skills. Eventually, however, the U.S. Army created a segregated unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, for Japanese Americans willing to fight in the European theatre against Nazi Germany.

After joining, Tsuida was sent to Fort Reilly, Kansas for his basic training. One day he and all the other Japanese-American soldiers were “herded into a single barracks surrounded by military police with machine guns at the ready,” the exhibit related. “President Franklin D. Roosevelt was visiting the base and the MPs were protecting him from those questionable U.S. soldiers.” Afterwards, Tsuida was sent to Naples, Italy, and would fight in Italy and France. He was injured in the October 1944 battle in which the 442nd was sent into the Vosges Mountains to rescue the “Lost Battalion,” which had been surrounded by the Germans. The 442nd was successful, but not without sustaining heavy casualties. At war’s end, Tsuida returned to his life as a fisherman.

Other Japanese-American soldiers had their basic training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, where those from the mainland United States found themselves thrown in with Japanese from Hawaii, with whom a fierce rivalry initially developed. However, as an exhibit photograph of San Diegan Sam Yamaguchi wearing Hawaiian garb illustrates, the two groups were molded in a single unit.

Among San Diegans fighting in World War II were Yasuichi ‘Jimmy’ Kimura, who used to drive a truck on local vegetable farms before his family was relocated to the internment camp. In the Army, he drove trucks and performed maintenance on them in both the European and North African campaigns. He was awarded a purple heart with an oak leaf cluster for wounds sustained during the rescue of the “Lost Battalion.”

After the war, the services of Japanese-Americans were called upon as interpreters and in other capacities in the occupation of Japan and of Okinawa. San Diegan Francis Tanaka, who later would become a physician with Scripps Mercy Hospital, served as a medical interpreter on Okinawa in 1945 and 1946. Shizue Suwa, a lieutenant junior grade in the Navy nurse corps, was stationed in occupied Japan.

When the internment camps closed in late 1945, Japanese-Americans moved back to San Diego. Those whose family members had served in the military were eligible for veterans’ family housing. The exhibit extensively quotes from Grim The Battles, a 1954 memoir by Daisy Lee Worthington Worcester. Arriving at the Frontier Housing Project in the Midway District of San Diego, a group of Japanese-American families encountered the hostility of Anglo families already living there.

“The Japanese sat in chairs along the walls, heads cast down as if to avoid hostile glances but not enabling them to escape low murmured expressions of hatred. An emergency meeting of the tenant council was held that evening,” Worcester wrote. One woman who served as secretary of the tenant council threatened there would be “a dead Jap” before morning if any of them were placed in the unit where she lived. “The meeting lasted until midnight. There was not one person who did not take part in the discussion. I witnessed a miracle that night—the miracle of serious people thinking and feeling together, striving to be above all good Americans and decent human beings.” The upshot was that there was a complete turnaround, including by the woman who had made the ‘dead Jap’ threat. The tenants decided to oppose any discrimination on the basis of race or creed or color. Additionally, they formed a committee to welcome each Japanese-American family to the complex.

Although the war was over, the experience of the internment camps continued to have its influence on the Japanese-American community. The exhibit notes that the 1951 Korean conflict “brought a whole new generation of Japanese Americans into the military…. These Japanese American youths had spent their formative years in internment camps and most had watched their parents lose everything during World War II. Nevertheless, they served when called upon…”

Among San Diegans who went to Korea was Jim Yanagihara who served in a mobile hospital unit such as that made famous by the television series M*A*S*H. “As part of the multinational United Nations force, Yanagihara came into contact with soldiers from other countries and he had high praise especially for the Ethiopian soldiers. He recalls ‘I was really impressed by these soldiers. They never complained.’”

The comment can be juxtaposed with the forward to the exhibit on Japanese-American soldiers, which explained: “Two Japanese words provide a running theme for this exhibition and describe the motivations for Japanese-Americans to serve. One is giri meaning duty, and the other is gaman, which means to endure….”

These concepts were tested in the Vietnam War, when like other young men in the United States many questioned the justness of that war. However the Japanese Americans “did not find it easy to openly express their thoughts. Nearly all had an uncle, brother or father who had been interned and who had served with distinction during World War II and Korea…. Many of those who served in Vietnam were born in the U.S. internment camps.”

Alan Hayashi, who was born in the Poston, Arizona camp, was drafted into the Army in 1969 after graduation from San Diego State University. He “received the bronze star for actions to cut the supply chain known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail near Da Nang, as well as many other commendations from the United States and the Republic of Vietnam.” He commented that he was “raised with the value of loyalty to my country.”

Among the first San Diegans killed in the Vietnam War was Sgt. Shugi Julio Kaneko, whose family were Japanese Peruvians who, at the suggestion of the American government, were sent to an internment camp in Texas to possibly be traded for U.S. prisoners of war held by Japan. However, his family was not needed for such an exchange and they eventually settled in San Diego. Unlike the Japanese-Americans who eventually received a U.S. government apology and $20,000 as redress for their wrongful internment during World War II, the Japanese-Peruvians never were eligible for the award.

Although San Diegan Robert Ito didn’t serve in Vietnam—his draft number having never been called – he remembered vividly stories told to him by San Diegan David Uda “about the racism and the mean-spirited attitudes of his fellow U.S. soldiers,” according to the narration. “When U.S. helicopters flew over, he would dive in the brush for the cover because he (having Asian features) didn’t want to be mistaken for the enemy….”

Containing criticism as it does of the actions of the American government, the exhibit demonstrates that the Veterans Memorial Museum is not only a repository for the memoirs of San Diegans who served in the military but also is an institution willing to examine controversies affecting the military. This makes the museum an even more valuable resource in a city of proud military tradition. Elsewhere in the museum, there are exhibits about San Diegan experiences in different branches of the military, on different fronts and in different wars—providing a kaleidoscopic introduction to the U.S. military experience.

Speeches by veterans about their individual experiences often enliven visitors’ experiences at the museum.

Outside the museum, there are some permanent memorials, including monuments with the names of San Diegans who died in the Vietnam War. Moved from its original location in Old Town San Diego to the Veterans Memorial Museum, these plaques constituted what was considered the first-in-the-nation memorial to Vietnam Veterans, erected even while controversy about the war raged.

In a park leading to the museum’s front door, there is a sculpture by Robert Henderson of a B24 Liberator Bomber which as noted on a plaque had an impact both on the outcome of World War II and the development of San Diego’s industrial sector.

“The airplane was designed by Consolidated Aircraft Corporation where more than a third of all B24sx were build during World War II,” the plaque reports. “At the peak of production more than 45,000 San Diegans worked at Consolidated building the B24. Other San Diego manufacturers brought the number even higher. Subcontractors included Rohr Industries in Chula Vista, Ryan Aeronautical Company and Solar Corporation both in San Diego. The B24 Liberator was flown by all branches of the U.S. military and by every major ally during World War II. Altogether, 19,256 liberators of all types and models were built. The Consolidated B24 Liberator was the most mass produced American aircraft of all time.”

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  This article previously was published on

Sharansky, Lau, Peer lead March of the Living

April 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky (center) leads the March of the Living flanked by Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau (left) and Israeli government ministers at Auschwitz-Birkenau, marking Holocaust Remembrance Day Monday (April 12). Photo: Yossi Zeliger

AUSCHWITZ, Poland (Press Release)–Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, flanked by Israel’s former Chief Rabbi and government ministers, led a group of over 10,000 on the annual March of the Living at Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and death camp in Poland, marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, Monday (April 12).

“It is easy to say that the lessons of Auschwitz have been learned.  It is easy to say those two magic words, never again,” Sharansky said, addressing the marchers, mostly Jewish young adults from Israel and abroad. “The hard part is giving those words meaning.  That is our challenge. That is your challenge.”

“Our grandparents and their grandparents and all our ancestors chose to stay Jewish — despite all the persecutions.  Will we be determined enough and strong enough to make that same choice?   Will we be as true to our identities living in freedom as they were living in fear?”

This year’s March marks the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II and honors the memory of the million and a half children who were killed during the Holocaust. Israel’s former Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, who led this year’s march with Sharansky, was among those who survived the Holocaust as a child.

Sharansky also invited several young adults from Israel to join him on the march, including Israeli tennis champ Shachar Peer, who came with her grandmother, Yuliana Eckstein, an Auschwitz survivor, and IDF Lieutenant Bensigizi Avraham, an immigrant from Ethiopia who does her army service as a counselor at Nativ, the Jewish Agency program to strengthen the Jewish identity of IDF soldiers.

Preceding provided by the Jewish Agency for Israel

Reportage on Israel’s Ethiopian, Russian immigrants focused on their differences from Israeli norms

February 13, 2010 1 comment

HAIFA (Press Release)–Exposure of the cultural aspects of Ethiopian Jewish immigration to Israel in the Israeli media has focused on immigrants’ cultural ignorance and ‘astonishment’ at their proving basic technological skills.

This has been shown in a new study carried out at the University of Haifa. Immigrants from the former U.S.S.R., on the other hand, were tagged as ‘belonging’ to Israeli culture and therefore labeled as ‘ours’.

“An immigrant group that is culturally remote from the hosting society receives less immigration support; its cultural foreignness is more marked and unsuccessful absorption is blamed on the cultural gap. An immigrant group sharing similar cultural characteristics, on the other hand, receives immigration support and is also expected to become absorbed and integrated in the socioeconomic, cultural and political system. When such a group culturally segregates itself, it is interpreted by the media as a threat,” explains researcher Germaw Mengistu, who carried out the study with the supervision of Dr. Eli Avraham of the Department of Communication at the University of Haifa.

The study set out to examine the differences in media coverage of the two immigration groups and to identify the factors behind these differences. In order to do so, the researcher surveyed 7,200 popular quality newspaper issues published between 1970 and 2004.

The results show that the main difference in the coverage of the two immigrations is in relation to the immigrants’ cultural distance from Israeli culture. While the percentage of articles on cultural integration and segregation is similar for both groups, the main difference is found in the articles relating to cultural disparity: 7.2% of the articles on Ethiopian immigrants and culture related to the differences between their culture and Israeli culture, while 2.6% of such articles were on Soviet immigrants.

A qualitative analysis of the articles shows that the main narrative relating to immigrant Ethiopian Jews was on their cultural ignorance – primarily their inability to cope in a city environment and lack of technological comprehension and skills. When a published article did relate to how the Ethiopian immigrant demonstrates technological capabilities, it was accompanied by wonderment at such skills.

In addition, members of the hosting society who were cited in such articles – whether the reporter or absorption agent – generally noted how the new immigrant from Ethiopia demonstrated astounding skills in using a technology but also made a point of suggesting that the immigrant was still oblivious to the dangers of that device.

Another significant difference between the two immigrant groups was found in a survey of their religious-historic status. The question of Jewish identity did not arise with regard to the massive U.S.S.R. immigration of the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1990s, the Judaism of sections of this group came into question, but the media criticized the claims. This criticism was interpreted as emanating from a fear of harming the immigrant population that brings great benefits to Israel. The coverage of the religious-historic roots of Ethiopian immigrants related to a “common Jewish father”, but their Jewish affinity was probed and much attention was given to issues of assimilation and lack of religious knowledge amongst members of this group.

That said, once the U.S.S.R. immigrants began to form a cultural identity of their own, they began to be considered a threat and most of the reporting began to criticize this trend. According to the researcher, this reinforces the main conclusion of his study: that the main factor influencing the reporting approach is the cultural position of an immigrant group in comparison with the majority.

Alongside the differences is a common denominator: Most of the media reports relating to members of both groups were negative. The majority of the reports on the two groups – 61% – were negative, 21% were positive and 18% were neutral. In the 1990s, many of the articles on immigrants from the U.S.S.R. related to crime (17%) and in the 2000s, this percentage rose to 34%. Articles on socioeconomic integration of this group dropped from 7.8% in the 1990s to 3% in the 2000s. Reports on disturbances and socioeconomic decline were the most common articles on Ethiopian immigrants in the 1990s (8.2% and 7.7% respectively). Social antagonism (14.5%) and socioeconomic deterioration (14.5%) were the most common types of reports in the 2000s. Articles on crime shot up drastically from 3.2% in the 1990s to 12% in the 2000s.

Preceding provided by the University of Haifa

San Diego Jewish Film Festival preview: ‘Zrubavel’

February 3, 2010 Leave a comment

By Yvonne Greenberg

LA JOLLA, California — The first film ever made by Ethiopian Israelis,  Zrubavel, a drama, provides great insight into their way of life, about which many Israelis have had  heretofore little interest in exploring.  Kudos to Shmuel  Beru, also an Ethiopian Israeli and its filmmaker, writer, and director, who at the age of eight courageously walked across the Sudanese desert with many Ethiopian Jews to immigrate to Israel.

Zrubavel involves an Ethiopian Jewish family that immigrated to Israel.  The film focuses on their religiosity and caring for and about their children and grandchildren and their future. We sense their friendly nature, as they share the Shabbat dinner with friends and friends of friends. 

The movie begins with aspiring adolescent filmmaker Yitzak (Daniel Beru) introducing his family and describing his street where black, white, and red people live, and his resentment over the overbearing presence of police in case there is trouble. His orthodox dad wants him to become a rabbi. Mom wants him to be a soccer star.  Grandfather Gite, who used to be a colonel, is now a street cleaner in Israel.  There is a very moving scene where Yitzak, feeling sorry for grandpa, finishes the street cleaning, and sends him to eat

Grandpa wants his son Gil to become a pilot in the Israeli Air Force, but the doors close to them at every school they go to, even cooking school, because of discrimination based on their color.

Gite’s daughter, Almaz, wants to become a singer and choose her own husband.  She has a boyfriend who is a distant cousin, and the family insists on knowing exactly how they are related.    

We delight in Almaz’s  PG love scene with her boyfriend.

However, Beru also shows scenes in his portrayal of the family that are not so sweet.  

The musicality, from rhythmical hand clapping and street dancing to a smaller and even larger combo of Almaz’s boyfriend, where she sings, adds great vibrancy to the film. 

Much more goes on with the family which is culturally enriching and certainly worth seeing.  

In 2008, at the closing ceremonies at the Haifa Film Festival,  Zrubavel won the Sharon Amrani Television Drama Award.  That award is considered by those who made Zrubavel the achievement of an entire Ethiopian community!     

Zrubavel is the first film Beru ever wrote.  He hopes that it will break down the barriers between Israelis and the Ethiopians. 

Zrubavel, in Hebrew and Amharic with English subtitles, will be shown  at the AMC La Jolla on Thursday, February 18, at 7:30 PM as part of the 20th Annual San Diego Jewish Film Festival.


Yvonne Greenberg is a freelance writer based in San Diego.

Israel to welcome 2,000 Falash Mura from Ethiopia

January 20, 2010 1 comment

JERUSALEM (WJC)–Israel has resumed a scheme to airlift 2,000 Falash Mura – Ethiopians of Jewish descent – out of the east African country and bring them to Israel. The scheme was halted in August 2008, when the Israeli government announced the airlifts would be ended.

Eighty-one new immigrants arrived on a flight from Ethiopia to Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning. The Falash Mura community converted to Christianity under pressure in the 19th Century. Some 8,000 still in Ethiopia want to emigrate to Israel.

The scheme was halted in 2008 after the arrival of the last of some 20,000 people the Israeli government had agreed to allow entry in 2003. However, campaigners continued to press for those still waiting in Ethiopia – many in poor conditions in transit camps – to be allowed into Israel.

Israeli officials have been checking cases individually, a process which has proven difficult because of intermarriage with Christians and a lack of documentation. The Jewish Agency for Israel, which facilitates immigration, said the 81 were the first of 600 people who had already been determined to be eligible to come to Israel. The agency said it expects another 2,000 people to be allowed to come to Israel within the next year.

The Falash Mura trace their roots back to the biblical King Solomon. However, they are not eligible to enter Israel under the Law of Return, which guarantees a place in the country for every Jew, because they have largely been unable to prove they are Jewish. Ethiopian Jews who kept their faith throughout centuries of adversity were flown to Israel in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Immigration to Israel from North America increased in 2009

December 28, 2009 Leave a comment

NEW YORK (Press Release)—The Jewish Agency for Israel announced that 3,767 new immigrants from North America will have moved to Israel in 2009, an increase of 17 percent compared with 2008, which saw 3,210 newcomers from the US and Canada.

Globally, there was also an increase of 17% in the number of new immigrants to Israel from around the world to over 16,200, excluding immigrants from Ethiopia. The largest growth in percentage of immigrants by geographic area was from Eastern Europe (27%) and from the former Soviet Union (22%), followed by North America (17%).  Countries with the largest increases in the number of new immigrants included the UK (with an increase of 34%, to 835 new immigrants), Argentina (51% to 325), Spain (52%, to 38) and Scandinavian countries (104%, to 57 new immigrants).

 Aliyah from Ethiopia, whose volume is directly dependent on the number of Ethiopians Israel’s Ministry of Interior grants aliyah eligibility to, dropped this year to under 300, but is expected to rise to 2008 levels of approximately 1,500 immigrants in 2010.

“Every new immigrant strengthens the country and is a strategic asset to Israel,” Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said at a press conference Sunday in Jerusalem announcing the immigration data. Sharansky thanked Jewish Agency partners Nefesh B’Nefesh in North America and Ami in France for their work.

In 2009, special arrangements were made to bring Jews to Israel from sensitive regions: 47 Jews were brought to Israel from Yemen, 25 from Morocco, 13 from Tunisia, 3 from Lebanon and 90 others from several additional countries.

Of the 3,767 new immigrants this year from North America, 3,324 were from the US (representing a 19% increase compared number of US immigrants in 2008) and 443 were from Canada (a 6% increase compared number of Canadian immigrants in 2008).

New immigrants from North America also took advantage of unique Jewish Agency absorption opportunities – 300 attended Kibbutz Ulpan; 90 attended Ulpan Etzion (including 20 who are at the new campus in Haifa), and 200 are enrolled through the Student Authority in degree studies in Israel. “We are proud of the attractive and innovative absorption options which we provide olim – from Hebrew ulpan to job options,” said Liran Avisar, head of the Jewish Agency’s Aliyah delegation in North America. “These difficult economic times have prompted people who were considering aliyah to decide that now is the time.”

In the last week of 2009 (and included in the annual figures), 400 new immigrants will arrive in Israel – 200 from North America on a flight arriving Wednesday (Dec. 30) in partnership with Nefesh B’Nefesh and 210 from South Africa, France and the UK on Jewish Agency-arranged flights.

Preceding provided by the Jewish Agency for Israel