Global, Justice, Religion

Reaching Out

I recently had a conversation with my step mother about Jews using their position as immigrants to North America, and their success at integration into this society and climbing the socio-economic ladder, to mentor current new immigrant groups. We specifically discussed the merits of Canadian Jews lending their knowledge to Canada’s First Nation populations, a people near and dear to her heart. She asked if I knew of any examples of such a partnership; I was sure it existed, but couldn’t think of any off hand.
The other day, my father sent me this article:

Somalis reach out to Jewish community
Oct 29, 2008 04:30 AM
Nicholas Keung
Immigration/Diversity Reporter
A first-generation Somali Canadian immigrant, Toronto law student Ayan Hersi didn’t know whom to turn to for advice and help pursuing her career.
But an innovative program, announced yesterday, is expected to give the 27-year-old woman and youth from her 250,000-strong community – one of Greater Toronto’s and Canada’s most impoverished – a needed lift by matching them with mentors from the more established Jewish community.
“Our generation is still young and the future is in our hands. Unlike others, we can’t call so and so and ask for help,” said Hersi, who has an undergraduate degree in equity studies, political science and African studies, and is pursuing a law degree at University of Toronto.
“We always have to go outside the community for help,” she added. “I am the first in my family to have graduated from a university, and studying law.”
The unusual partnership between the Canadian Somali Congress, the United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto and the Canadian Jewish Congress is the brainchild of the Canadian International Peace Project, a non-partisan charitable organization that helps bring together diverse groups to work on peace, security and development projects.
Hersi is paired with James Morton, past president of the Ontario Bar Association, whose Jewish immigrant family arrived in Canada in the 1960s from Europe via the U.S.
Mark Persaud, peace project founder, said the Somali community has identified the lack of mentorship opportunity as a huge disadvantage for its young people. He hopes the program can be a model for future initiatives.

Does anyone know of other examples of this type of partnership? Does it exist in your community? With which other populations? Please leave links/examples in the comments!

5 thoughts on “Reaching Out

  1. Interestingly enough, this situation came up in Rabbi Jill Jacobs’ course on Jews and power at the Havurah Institute. Successful immigrants teaching new immigrants was the subject of a true-to-life role play in which wealthier Jews were investing in development in a black community.
    It was clear that the Jews giving money and directions to the poorer community could be pretty patronizing. And it was also very easy for something to be said like (as Jacobs’ explained really happened) “Gee, it’s great you guys are investing in us because you Jews have all the money.”

  2. From a Jewish communal perspective, is there a more dubious place to draw immigrants from? It really isn’t worth the cheap labor. It’s nice to help people, but it would be smart to block Somalian entry in the first place — except for dissidents, of course.

  3. KFJ,
    I could see how it could easily become patronizing. I was hoping others had examples, like the above story, where it wasn’t. Possibly the newer immigrant group reaching out to Jews, not just Jews to others…

  4. There is a strange allegation in a comment on this story — look:
    What is not been said in this article is that Ayan Hersi is an associate of Ahmed Hussen,President of Canadian Somali Congress) who is also one of the director of communication this project and that Mr. Persaud and other board member Ed Morgan are also honorary members of the canadian Somali Congress. And I hope the star would do accurate coverage and share all links with readers to give an accurate picture.

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