Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A lifetime helping Jews in distress

By all accounts, Stanley Abramovitch is a remarkable man. Beginning his career in a German Displaced Persons' camp, Abrahamovitch went on to work for the American 'Joint', bringing relief to Jews in distress all over the world. The Jerusalem Post has this review of his autobiography, From Survival to revival.

"Even given his experience with Holocaust survivors, Abramovitch was unprepared for the poverty and illness he found among many of Iran's 120,000 Jews. Stretching his limited budget, he established a variety of medical, welfare and vocational programs in the schools.

"The availability of a decent lunch and the distribution of clothing could induce a youngster to stay in school instead of dropping out to pursue more petty opportunities such as peddling, shoe polishing and the like," he writes.

"In keeping with JDC's modus operandi of setting in motion a community's ability to meet its own ongoing needs, he involved sometimes reluctant natives in managing and funding any program he started.

"In Iran, this involved much haggling with the affluent class. He wearied of this drawn-out process because in the meantime he "had to contemplate and sometimes witness barefoot children shivering in rags in unheated classrooms during the harsh winter months." At one Teheran school, children lined up to give back their JDC Hanukka presents because they did not grasp that they were meant to keep them.

"In 1952, Abramovitch moved to the organization's Paris headquarters to begin "what would turn out to be a 30-year career in Jewish education in Europe, alongside missions of many kinds in the countries of northern Africa."

"For this wide-ranging assignment, Abramovitch used JDC resources to replace short-term relief programs - if they even existed - with professional services and solid communal infrastructures. Working with other organizations and agencies, he realized his goal of revitalizing Jewish education wherever he went, despite tremendous odds.

"It was his concern for his own children's education that prompted Abramovitch to make aliya in 1972. With the blessing of his wife, Noemi, he continued traveling to far-flung Jewish communities on behalf of the JDC. Sometimes, Noemi accompanied him, as she did in 1996 when he went to Yemen to tend to the community of fewer than 400 Jews in San'a."

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