"We call these tchotchkes," Keith Wasserman says, examining a snow globe. The 27-year-old founder and president of Gelt Inc. talks into a video camera as he walks around the furnished unit in a Bakersfield apartment complex, which the company purchased in 2009.
We have reached the threshold of another new year. Let us pledge, you and I, to cross it together, committed to a future in which food stamps, the majority of which go to feed children, require neither a diet nor a challenge. Hungry people deserve better. We all do.
Helping others and bettering the community -- "healing the world," as tikkun olam translates from Hebrew -- are ancient themes in Judaism. This has most commonly been done through social action -- planned events like feeding the homeless, visiting the elderly and cleaning up a neighborhood. But in the past few years, there has been an explosion among American Jewry, particularly within the Reform movement, to do more than just treat a symptom.
Indeed, immigrant communities often struggle with loyalties to the social mores of their old country and their new one. In the world of philanthropy and volunteerism, many Jewish leaders have learned that immigrant Jewish communities also have attitudes different from their American-born Jewish brothers and sisters. Those attitudes stem from the political systems and types of communities from which they came and what was expected of them in their native lands.
The conference, "Forgotten Refugees: Jews Expelled From Arab Countries," was sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council, JIMENA and the Jewish Community Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Federation. Support came from the World Jewish Congress and other local and national Jewish organizations.
About 300 people attended the four-hour event, hearing and sharing testimonials detailing imprisonment at internment camps, mass deportations, rape and ethnic cleansing. The stories were interspersed throughout the conference, which also featured panels on community activism, the role of the United Nations in the Middle East and a keynote address by Algerian-born Jew Eric Benhamou, the chair of 3Com Corp.