I was so gratified to read that in cooperation with the United States Department of State, the Jewish Agency secretly had flown 19 Yemeni Jews to new lives in Israel. Please read about it: http://www.timesofisrael.com/17-yemenite-jews-secretly-airlifted-to-israel/ Israel, of course, welcomed then, embraced them...and then I thought back to a sad chapter among the many sad chapters of JFNA...dating back to the earliest days of this Blog.
Join me, please in a reminiscence. It was back almost seven years ago, in May 2009, that JFNA disclosed that it had engaged in its own clandestine operation in Yemen to bring 25 families not to Israel but to Monsey, New York, ostensibly because their lives were at risk -- they weren't. This JFNA was not part of any family reunification plan; it was strictly because JFNA was approached by HIAS, members of the virulently anti-Israel Samar community and the U.S. State Department. This relocation was aided in part by the leader of the New York local agency, the New York Legal Assistance Group, which was to monitor the relocation to assure the successful integration of these 25 families into life in America -- or at least what passes for American life as Jews in Monsey. That leader resigned his post over one year ago in the face of "financial irregularities." The total effort would cost our communities $800,000 because by the time the financial need was established JFNA had already begun the deconstruction of its own FRD effort. So how much of a fund raising deficit resulted? Who monitored the integration of these families? We'll never know...except we do know that for JFNA, as always, "not our problem."
Could those 25 families have made aliya as have all Yemeni Jews before and since? Of course. In fact the then Yemen government (there was a Yemen government then) issues passports to all Yemeni Jews allowing them to leave for whatever destination they desired. Would the costs have been less, far less? Of course. Was JAFI consulted by JFNA before the ridiculous clandestine effort of almost a decade ago? Of course not, and neither were the Joint (about conditions on the ground in Yemen) nor the Government of Israel. This was a fiasco. And has JFNA monitored the integration of these 25 families into American Jewish life? Of course not. We can only pray that they are experiencing all the good that America can offer just as they would have, had they made aliya as had their predecessors and their successors -- right through this week. And let us pray for the remaining 50 Yemeni Jews who, having chosen to remain in that country, one of whom has now been arrested on clearly trumped up charges for having "smuggled" the community's 600 year old Torah to Israel with the Rabbi and olim. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4783069,00.html
This was just another sorry chapter in a JFNA history so filled with them. For JAFI the last aliya from Yemen was told to the Large City Federation CEOs before the JAFI Members were told (or found out in the Times of Israel) reinforcing JAFI leaders' contempt for its own lay leadership.
Now the Jewish Agency has announced that the totality of the surviving remnant of Yemen's Jews are in Israel -- but for 50 who chose to remain in Sana, Yemen's capital, under the protection of tribal chieftains. The rescue of Yemen's Jews is but one reason why we have a Jewish Agency; that rescue is one of its historic core purposes, sometimes forgotten. The Yemenite Jewish population will celebrate Pesach this week in Israel -- 25 families from that community may be found someday in Monsey, New York, as well.