Helping Syria War Victims Poses Special Challenges for Jews and Israelis

Fears of Doing More Harm Than Good Sideline Aid Groups

No Easy Task: Victims of Syria’s brutal civil war are languishing in camps inside and outside the country. Jewish groups and individuals want to help, but there are plenty of obstacles.
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No Easy Task: Victims of Syria’s brutal civil war are languishing in camps inside and outside the country. Jewish groups and individuals want to help, but there are plenty of obstacles.

By Nathan Guttman

Published May 21, 2013, issue of May 31, 2013.
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But so far, Jewish communal organizations are working within coalitions only to support international aid to Syria. Syrian activists in the United States are still hopeful that they’ll see their Jewish involvement step up.

“The Jewish American community here has always supported humanitarian causes and has always stood by the right thing, and I hope they’ll continue to do so,” said Mouaz Moustafa, political director of the Washington-based Syrian Emergency Task Force.

In the meantime, individual activists like Kahana are trying to fill the gap. Kahana intends to head back to the region later in May to promote a new project of his that is focused on micro-financing opportunities for Syrian women refugees, a project that is funded by Jewish American donors.

He need not fear that his efforts are going unnoticed. Recent reports about his work, posted on an Israeli news website, have earned Kahana an unflattering mention on Assad’s Facebook page. Under a photo of him in a Syrian opposition scarf is a caption describing Kahana as the “Jewish Israeli” who is helping the rebels. The attention from Assad proved, however, to be valuable in raising money and attention, as Kahana received invitations from several Gulf countries to visit and discuss ways of helping Syrian refugees.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or on Twitter,@nathanguttman


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