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July 20, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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July 20, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 20, 2012 By HUlel Kuttler BALTIMORE (JTA)--The Israeli cargo ship Yuvali pushed off from Eilat in the spring of 1977 on what shaped up to be a standard journey to Singapore, Taiwan and Japan. "Sailing was good, and there was nice, calm weather," Frane Fingust, the ship's chief engi- neer, said recently. In East Asia, the vessel slid around the Strait of Mallacaand entered the South China Sea. Just past breakfast on June 10 of thatyear, alongVietnam's coast, Yuvali's crew spotted a fishing boat sporting SOS banners reading "FOOD" and "WATER." The Yuvali negotiated a hard-to-execute turn as crew members quickly gathered food items for the fishermen: rice, vegetables, fruit, powdered milk and jugs of water. As the Yuvali pulled alongside, Fingust could see awoman clutchingher baby. Afewatatime, others joined her on deck, 66 people in all. The occupantswere notfish- ermenbutVietnamese refugees fleeing communist rule in their postwar homeland. They were helped on board, and the Yuvali continued on to Kachsiung, Taiwan. The Yuvali's crew was assured that from Taiwan the refugees would be flown to new lives in Israel--and so they were. Fingust, 75 and retired from a45-year careerworkingaboard cargo ships, wishes to reconnect both with the former refugees and his Yuvali crewmates. Fingust, who divides his time now between hisnative Split, Croatia, and Canada's British Columbia, doesn't know the names of any of the Vietnamese. He recalls, however, names of some ofhisYuvalimates:Avram Erez, Efraim Markowitz, Uri Is- ner, Avram Kohen, Alex Munch and Alex Weisfeld. SeeKing Kin: A fateful encoun er tt sea The Vietnamese were re- What did they know of Israel?" fused entry at Hong Kong and The incident remains one :;;:i Taiwanese ports. Nguyen Tuan of the Jewish state's proudest ;:   subsequently learned that the moments. On June 20, 1977, ship's captainspoke with Israeli Begin had announced his deci- authorities,who secured Prime sion in a speech to the Knesset. Minister Menachem Begin's All told, the Yuvali and other approval to provide refuge ships rescued 179 Vietnamese and Israeli citizenship to the "boatpeople"whoweregranted • 66. With the refugees bearing citizenship andsettledin Israel. Israeli papers, Taiwan relented. According to Haifa's National After a few days in Taiwan, the Maritime Museum, Begin soon group flew to Israel. thereafter sent a letter to the Yehuda Avner, who served Yuvali's owners. then as an adviser to Begin, "Please accept the govern- was dispatched to welcome the ment's and my pe?sonal thanks Vietnamese at Ben-GurionAir- for your part in this human en- port."I said to them in English, terprise," Begin wrote. "Jewish Courtesy: Cuong "Jimmy" Nguyen Tuan 'I'm here on behalf of Prime people, whoknewpersecutions Cuong "Jimmy" Nguyen Tuan, a Vietnamese Israeli, be- Minister Menachem Begin and and know, probably better then lieves that he and 65 others would have died at sea had an on behalf of the government of any other nation, the meaning Israeli cargo ship not rescued them in 1977. Israel.Youarewelcome.Youare of being a refugee, could not not strangers in our midst.' I stay indifferent to the suffering married a Jewish immigrant Only four or five Vietnamese used those exact words," said of those unfortunates." from Ukraine. families from the Yuvali re- Avner, reached on his Jerusa- Nguyen Than became a chef He does not remember Fin- main in Israel, most in the Tel lem balcony. "I thought [they andworinarestaurantinPet- gust, but he would like to meet Aviv area, he said.The others, looked] rather confused. They achTikvah, ashortridefromhis the Yuvali crew members who including members of Nguyen were happy, but obviously we Ramat Gan home. He remains saved him and his countrymen Than's family, moved to North had no language in common. Catholic, and a few years ago more than three decades ago. America and Europe. Fingust had attempted in vain to reach the former group through the daughter of a Vietnamese refugee who had escaped on another ship and also settled in Israel. Through that Tel Aviv woman, "Seeking Kin" established contact with one of the people rescued by the Yuvali, Cuong "Jimmy" NguyenTuan, andisattempting to reunite him with Fingust. At this writing, Fingust was away on a three-week fishing trip in Croatia and could not be reached. In an earlier email, Fingust described seeing the handmade signs on the rickety fishing boat, which was "the moment that our captain decided to take [the refugees] on our ship and give them any assistance they might need," he said. "You can imagine our surprise! How was it possible to accommodate 66 people inside that small fishing boat, nine meters [30 feet] long? It must have been packed. They must have been sitting one on the other." NguyenTuanwas 18whenhe fled Saigonwithhis parents, two sisters and brother-in-law. After four or five days at sea, they had seen several ships pass without stopping. Hope was nearly lost. Then the Yuvali arrived. "If we had [waited] another day, we would have been fin- ished," Nguyen Tuan, now 53, said last week from Israel. "We didn't know [Yuvali] was an Israeli ship. We saw that itwent ahead. We were so happy when we saw it come back. They took us on the ship. I heard from my brother-in-law that it was an Israeli ship going to Taiwan." PAGE 13A "I love this country because if not for Israel, maybe I would be dead on the sea," Nguyen Than said after a late night of work at the restaurant. "The prime minister oflsrael brought us here, and I never forgot it. When I came to Israel, it was clearly very hard, but it was OK. I love Israel like I love Vietnam.'; Please email Hillel Kut- tler at if you were rescued by Israel's Yuvali or worked on the ship at the time. If you would like "Seeking Kin " to write about your search for long-lost relatives and friends, please include the principal facts and your contact informa- tion in a brief email. "Seek- ing Kin" is sponsored by Bryna Shuchat and Joshua Landes and family in loving memory of their mother and grandmother, Miriam Shuchat, a lifelong uniter of the Jewish people. SCOVer Taught by Senior Rabbi Aaron D. Rubingcr Beginning Monday, xugust 6, 2012 7:00 p.m. - 9:15 p.m. If you would like to strengthen your Jewish Spirituality or are considering conversion to Judaism, this course is for you. This 18-week survey course distills the essence of Jewish faith, beliefs, customs and traditions from the perspective of the Conservative movement, and includes basic Hebrew reading for synagogue use. Class topics include: • Jewish Views About God & Concept olMitzvah • The Difference Between Torah, Bible, and Talmud • Jewish View ol the Messiah and the A1terli]e • High Hofidays: Bul, Rash Hashana, Yam Kippur • The Meaning and Observance o]$habbat • The True Meaning olthe Dietary Laws • Festivals: Sukkot, Pesach, Shavuot, Hanukah, Purim & Other Important Jewish Occasions • Jewish History I - Origins ol the Jewish People until Destruction o12nd Temple • Jewish History II - Rabbinic Age until Modern Time • Li]e Cycle h Brit, Naming, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and Weddings • Li]e Cycle Ih Divorce, Death and Dying and Rites ol Mourning • What are Tzedakah, Talmud Torah, and Ma'asim Tovim? • Structure & Meaning ol Our Prayer Service • Comparative Judaism: Orthodoxy, Conservative, and Relorm - What does it mean to be Conservative Jews • What Every Jewish Home Should Have: Preparation 1or Conversion Upon completion of this program, those considering conversion must meet traditional requirements. For fees and registration information, please call Susan Sparrow at 407-298-4650 or email: Congregation Shalom Member of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism b22. 613 Concourse Parkway South, Maitland, FL 32751 * (407) 298-4650 Please view our Website: