Tuesday, June 24, 2014


I thought it would be good to examine the Global Planning Table "Signature Initiatives" from time-to-time. Today we will examine what has been dubbed The Israel Children's Zone (the ICZ), after the Harlem Children's Zone (the HCZ)
right there in New York City. In a few days we will look at JQuest.

The HCZ, with its charismatic and inspirational leadership dedicated to lifting Harlem schoolchildren from poverty to success and a budget estimated at $131,000,000 has inspired the ICZ and is its model. While educational experts have seriously questioned the transferability of the HCZ model, the perpetrators of the ICZ see no evil, hear no evil and speak none. Here is what the New York Times recently reported:
"But back home and out of the spotlight, Mr. Canada and his charter schools have struggled with the same difficulties faced by other urban schools, even as they outspend them. After a rocky start several years ago typical of many new schools, Mr. Canada’s two charter schools, featured as unqualified successes in “Waiting for ‘Superman,’ ” the new documentary, again hit choppy waters this summer, when New York State made its exams harder to pass.
A drop-off occurred, in spite of private donations that keep class sizes small, allow for an extended school day and an 11-month school year, and offer students incentives for good performance like trips to the Galápagos Islands or Disney World."
I remember when the Ethiopian National Project, back in the late 90s, was too slow in getting its act together,  being accosted at a meeting by a well-meaning Steven Solender, then the President/CEO of New York UJA. Speaking sternly and earnestly, Steve said: "Richard, if the aliyah doesn't begin immediately, we'll bring all of the Ethiopian Jews to New York City." I responded, "Come on, Steve, get real." But, some folks, some communities, some organizations never "get real."

The reality is clear, the Harlem Chidren's Zone's "successes" have never been replicated beyond Harlem itself. The JDC's work with Ethiopian olim families in PACT and PACT's progeny have recently been criticized for their failures even though we know of the Joint's herculean efforts with that immigrant group. The GPT leaders sense of themselves -- that we can succeed with a huge investment (which JFNA -- for its role seems clearly and only to raise millions for "the Zone" -- will predictably fail just as JFNA's efforts to fund Ethiopian aliyah, the Ethiopian National Project and "Complete the Journey" were all abject failures.

But, beyond the funding failure, one thing is certain -- there is no one in our sphere with the charisma, the vision or the passion of a Geoffrey Canada, the founder and executor of the Harlem Children's Zone who lifted the HCZ on his shoulders and walked it toward whatever success it might ever have. (Mr. Canada resigned from the HCZ earlier this year.) The Israeli Ethiopian community beset with every social, familial and educational issue imaginable, is producing its own indigenous leaders. 

It is past time for this Israeli community to develop its own programs, its own Israeli Children's Zone designed by the community for the community. The day
of North American paternalism has long since passed, we just don't realize it.


1 comment:

joebrown42 said...

Richard - Having worked for Roni Akele, the current Director of the ENP - I can tell you that he is such a visionary. Yes, he is in a problematic place, but he is actually constantly working to bring about a real change in the community from which he comes.
Joe Brown Leer