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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 19, 2013 With few Jews left to save, immigrant aid group HIAS searches for relevance ByRon Kampeas TARRYTOWN, N.Y. (JTA)-- The new HIAS is not your grandmother's Hebrew Im- migrant Aid Society, and it's certainly not the one that brought her mother Over from the Pale of Settlement. After decades as the Jewish community's foremostvoiceon immigration--first in leading the resettlement of Jews who arrived here at the turn of the 20th century, then in absorb- ing hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews in the 1980s and '90s=-HIAS is making formal its shift to refugee care and resettlement overseas. The vast majority of its work will not be with Jews, and most of it will not be in the United States. The iconic photos of 1890s Russian babushkas and 1970s Soviet scientists arriv- ing in New York are morphing into scenes of refugees fleeing Sudanese tribal wars and Ec- uadorian migrants escaping Colombia's drug wars. Underscoring the shift are challenges that are not unique to HIAS: the search for a mes- sage appealing to younger Jews considered less parochially minded than their parents, and the dangers ofassociatingwith a particular issue--in this case immigration reform--seen as partisan. "The same stakeholders who were interested in im- migration issues were not the same stakeholders who were interested in refugees," HIAS President Mark Hetfield told tt/e group's worldwide staff at a retreat last month just north of New York City. The shift culminates a 15- year period in which HIAS has expanded its operations in refugee camps overseas, where it has accrued a strong reputa- tion for service. And it comes at a time when there are few at-risk Jews in totalitarian countries that potentially require rescue. HIAS directors say the quest for relevance does not mean it is entirely abandoning the infrastructure it has built to rescue Jews at risk should the need arise. But faced with a choice between satisfying an older generation willing to sup- port an organization focused narrowly on Jewish needs and a younger generation more inclined to see itself as citizens oftheworld, HIAS chose youth. "We're working with all refu- gees, and you as a young person don't have to feel limited that we're being myopic that you're working with Jews," said Sandy Spinner, a HIAS board member and chair of its programs com- mittee. HIAS was founded in the 1880s on the Lower East Side of Manhattan; its initial constitu- ency was Russian Jews fleeing pogroms. Over the years, the organization became syn- onymous with the rescue and resettlementofpersecuted Jews abroad, helping to bring over such Jewish luminaries as the philosopher Hannah Arendt, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Olympian Lenny Krayzelburg and Google co- founder Sergey Brin. But with the vast majority of the world's Jews now living in stable democracies, the shrinking pool of potential Jew- ish refugees has necessitated a wholesale re-imagining of the organization's purpose. The change is reflected in'the group's new motto, unveiled in June, which adds "Protect the Refugee" to the group's traditional motto, "Welcome the Stranger." It's not clear yet how HIAS will make its pitch to younger donors. Officials could only describe it in vagoe terms. "Young people don't just want to write checks, they want to be involved," said Dale Schwartz, the incoming chair- man of HIAS. But Schwartz could only speculate about the shape that involvement would take. "Legal work, organizing to raise funds?" Hetfield, in his talk to staff in this suburban village of New York City, noted that the international refugee system is largely faith-based and that it would be a"shonda" should the Jews abandon their place at the table while various Christian and Muslims groups continue to play a prominent role. "Ifanyonewould know about being forced to flee from their homes, the Jews wouldknow," said Anne Mwangi-Wambugu, HIAS' country director for Kenya, which has taken in refugees from conflicts in neighboring countries as well as gay refugees subject to per- secution in Uganda. In Latin Anerica, HIAS employs Argentinian Jewish psychologists who lost their jobs in the country's economic crisis 15 years ago. Their job is to work with refugees who only have had contact with govern ment bureaucrats. With operations in nine Ecuadorean cities, HIAS is now the coun- try's largest refugee agency. "we work in the waiting rooms," said Enrique Burbin- ski, the group's regional rep- resentative for Latin America. " "We try to cut the chain of violence." HIAS is not abandoning im- migration reform. It remains one of 26 members of the Jew- ish Social Justice Roundtable, which has made immigration reform a priority this year. And its website calls" for compre- hensive immigration reform that creates a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers in the United States and establishes border policies that enhance security while protecting human rights. But HIAS officials hope the de-emphasis of the group's immigration work in favor of refugee resettlement will help smooth the edges of HIAS' re- lations wTth potential partners put off by its reform agenda. "People would say to us, are you for illegal immigration?" Spinner said, describing the reaction of certain Christian groups. "The issues that are around refugees are much more intense and critical." Coach seeks to add Maccabiah gold to Stanley Cup, victory over illiteracy By Hillel Kuttler JERUSALEM (JTA)--Of all the compelling stories of athletic achievement and chal- lenges overcome that could be told by the 9,000 participants gathering in Israel for the'19th Maccabiah Games, it might be hard to find one to top Jacques Demers. He's a coaching legend, having led the iconic Mon- treal Canadiens to the National Hockey League championship in 1993. He's also a member of the Canadian Parliament. And until about a decade ago, he would have been unable to read the words in this article. Demers disclosed in his 2005 autobiography that he was functionally illiterate, a result of a traumatic childhood with an alcoholic father who beat him and his mother. "I suffered from a tremen- Reading R U Looking for the 3 R's Ruach in Your Religious School? Rabbi Joshua Neely Principal Rabbi Reach Out to Temple Israel's Meitin Religious School www.tiflorida.org/education.htm Building Community Since 1954 50 South Moss Road .(/inter Springs, FL.32708 407-647-3055 office@tiflorida.org www.tiflorida.org dous amount o( anxiety," De- mers told JTA in an interview two weeks ago from his home outside Montreal. "When you have that problem, people think you're dumb and stupid." Demers, who is not Jewish, will be behind the bench for the Canadian master's team at the Mcabiah, the quadrennial gathering of Jewish athletes that opened July 18 in Israel. It will be his second Mac- cabiah coaching appearance for Canada; in 1997, he guided the open division squad to a gold medal. The team included DavidNemirovsky, arightwing who played three seasons in the NHL. No one on that level will be on Demers' roster this time as Canada competes against teams from the United States, Israel and Ukraine. But Demers is clear about one thing: As much as he loves Israel, this is a business trip. He means to bring out the best effort of his players and, he hopes, capture the gold. "I'm going there to win," he said. Demers didplentyofwinning in the NHL. He reached the playoffs in eight of his first 10 seasons coaching in the league, taking three division titles. His Stanley Cup-winning Ca- nadiens finished third in their division despite attaining the most victories, 48, and points, 102, for any team he had ever coached. When he addressed his Mac- cabiah team before it took the ice against the United States in the gold medal game in 1997, Demers dangled his country's most cherished sports motif as a carrot for the players. "This is your Stanley Cup. You want it, you go get it. This is your moment," Lawrence Routtenberg, a right wing on the team, recalled Demers as saying. Demers didn't treat the Mac- cabiah "as just a charity event or a minor event," said Rout- tenberg, a Montreal resident, who will be playing for Demers Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images Former Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Demers embraces his one-time goalie Patrick Roy at Roy's 2008 retirement ceremony at the Bell Centre in Montreal. again at the Maccabiah. Demers' involvement with the Maccabiah has its roots in the strong friendships he has enjoyed with the Montreal Jewish community. They date to his childhood in the city's Cote-des-Neiges neighbor- hood, where he delivered groceries to Yiddish-speaking customers. As the Canadiens coach, Demers got to know Sam Eltes, who sat near the team's bench at the famed Montreal Forum. About a year after he was fired, Demers was visiting Eltes' Mercedes dealershipwhen Eltes received a phone call from the head of Maccabi Canada. The caller said he needed a coach for the upcoming Games. The telephone was passed to Demers and the match was made. Demers "has a love for the Jewish people, without ques- tion," Eltes'said. "He's just a wonderful person." But until Demers published his autobiography, Eltes had no idea that his friend was illiter- ate. In retrospect, there were signs. When Demers would come to buy a car, he would bring his checkbook and tell Eltes to fill in a fair amount. Demers had fooled his hock- ey colleagues, too. As a coach, and during his brief tenure as the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Demers kept his illiteracy a secret, de- livering speeches by memory and assigning his assistants to handle paperwork and cor- respondence. But coming clean publicly "has been a big plus for me," Demers said. His recovery included seeing a psychiatrist and taking medi- cations that control anxiety. "Sometimes I wonder how I was able to coach," Demers said. "I think it was on adrenaline because there's so much go, go, go in hockey." AsaCanadiansenator, aposi- tion to which he was appointed four years ago to represent the Conservative Party, Demers has worked to fight illiteracy. He believes that 48 prcent of Quebec residents have literacy problems. "There are a lot of people like me," he said. In September, Demers will join the Senate's Foreign Af- fairs and International Trade Committee, where he expects Israel to be on his agenda. He also expressed interest in developments in Turkey. But first there's a tourna- ment to play in Israel, a country whose citizens Demers admires for their industriousness and tenacity in establishing and defending themselves. He said he respects the devotion of Montreal Jews to the Jewish state, too. "For two weeks," Demers said, "I'm Jewish."