February 26, 2004
Cooper Visits Sudan, Discusses Slavery
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, spent an eventful 21 hours in Sudan in mid-February when he met with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to discuss the country's ongoing slave trade and a peace treaty with Sudanese rebel.
"The whole notion of enslavement in the 20th and 21st century really has sparked concern and anger in many, many corners," Cooper told The Journal.
That could change through negotiations to end two horrific decades of civil war between the Muslim-dominated government in Sudan's north and Christian rebels in the south. At the Sudanese presidential palace in Khartoum, Bashir listened to Cooper's recommendation to allow anti-slavery activists free reign in traveling across Sudan, seeking to help end slavery.
"Whatever can be done to speed that along," he said.
Mohammed Khan, a second-generation Pakistani American in Los Angeles and adviser to the American Sudanese Council, traveled with Cooper.
"The Sudanese government is making it very clear that they have nothing to hide," Khan said.
Decades of civil war mean that "the Sudan was viewed by the U.S. as a kind out outpost and welcome mat for terrorists," Cooper said. "With all of the bloodshed and everything else that's taken place, number one, the terrorists are gone."
The rabbi said he felt comfortable walking around war-torn Khartoum.
"It's been a long, long time since the people over there have seen any Jews," he said -- David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
JFS to Give More to Russian Outreach
Following complaints from elderly ex-Soviet Jews, JFS Family Service (JFS) has scaled back its planned shutdown of a decade-long Santa Monica program of entertainment, social services and twice-monthly meetings for about 150 Russian and Baltic Jewish senior citizens.
JFS instead is allocating more money to the Russian Outreach Program, but the program coordinator has quit because JFS cut her weekly hours from 15 to four.
"I will not work four hours a week and I don't know who can," Lina Haimsky said. "There is no possible way anyone can run the program working four hours a week."
JFS Executive Director Paul Castro said that following a Feb. 16 meeting with concerned senior citizens, JFS decided to cut Haimsky's hours, but increase the Russian Senior Program's annual activity fund budget from $1,500 to $2,000 and increase JFS case management for program participants.
"This essentially reinstates the program, but at a smaller level, a lower level," Castro said.
Retiree Rachel Flaum, who lobbied JFS to save the outreach program, said, "On the one hand, it's very good because they gave us more money for our activity. But on the other hand, they cut the salary for the coordinator, so she quit. For a short time, we will try to do something without a coordinator, just to keep the people together." -- DF
Social Services Battle Sacramento Cuts
Jewish social service agency leaders are planning a spring Sacramento pilgrimage to seek mercy from state legislators planning extensive cuts in health and welfare budgets.
"This is a pretty tough year in Sacramento; there aren't too many people who are really speaking for the poor and the underrepresented," said Coby King, association director of the Jewish Public Affairs Committee (JPAC). The statewide coalition of mostly Federation-based groups led a Feb. 11 delegation to Sacramento and is a planning a similar May 10-11 lobbying trip, King said, "to try to lessen some of the damage that's being done up there."
Paul Castro, executive director of Jewish Family Service, said JPAC's Feb. 11 trip had Jewish agency leaders meeting with state Assemblyman Keith Richman (R-Northridge), plus senior staff from state senators and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office to discuss medical service cuts.
"Everybody's sympathetic. I don't think there's any clear solution," Castro said. "There's a little bit of guarded optimism [about Schwarzenegger]. I guess there's a sense that he's not tied into one place or another."
H. Eric Schockman, executive director of the West Los Angeles-based MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, did not attend the Feb. 11 trip but is monitoring proposed budget cuts in the food stamp and child-care programs.
"Cuts into child care force families to spend more on food resources," Schockman said. "These all have rippling effects in both our economy and our social fabric. Food is a basic building block for everything else."
For information about JPAC's May 10-11 Sacramento lobbying trip, contact Coby King at (310) 489-2820 or visit www.jpac-cal.org . -- DF