In 1991 after the second ‘miracle’ airlift of 17,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel, Anne and David Silverman began collecting money to buy fruit for them at the absorption centres for Shabbat. The idea became so popular, that money was coming in thick and fast and soon, Anne and David found that they could do other things with it. They teamed up with Rabbi Yosef and Aida Miller and established the Forgotten People Fund in 1998 to assist Ethiopian families in need of all kinds of assistance.
Most of the seniors from Ethiopia were farmers who never learned to read or write. Learning Hebrew, adjusting to life in a small, crowded apartment in the city and just living among so many white people became almost impossible hurdles for them to overcome. The young children went to school and learnt to speak Hebrew among themselves and Amharic (the Ethiopian language) only to their parents and grandparents.
The children who immigrated in 1991 have grown up and consider themselves Israeli. But life can be very hard for them. Many of them dropped out of education and became unemployed or took very low paid work. Poverty, domestic violence and crime are still prevalent in these communities and it is hard for them to break the cycles of poverty.
The Forgotten People Fund started by giving out food vouchers to families referred by the Welfare Department. They soon started paying for medical treatment and house repairs and providing legal assistance and financial advice. Some of their most successful programmes have been the ‘breakfast club’ for elders, a budgeting course for young married couples and a computer programme where computers and printers are donated by Bar and Bat Mitzvah children.
£32,000 to enable 16 students to take professional courses such as nursing, social work and teaching.
A couple of years ago the Forgotten People Fund started helping students with university fees or living expenses to enable them to get a second degree or professional qualification.
The Government do not provide subsidies for second degrees and so many Ethiopian-Israeli students find themselves taking low-paid jobs because they cannot find employment in their field.
Myisrael has been thrilled to support this programme and is continuing to do so. This year, we are hoping to raise enough to help 16 more people take professional qualifications.
We really believe that this gives individuals the best chance of breaking the cycle-of-poverty that they have known until now.