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Tekoah Urges World Jewry to Help Solve Problem of Israel’s Social Gap

Yosef Tekoah, president of Ben Gurion University in the Negev and former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, called last night for a concerted effort of world Jewry to solve the problem of the social gap in Israel which primarily affects Jews of Sephardi origin.

“The Israeli government alone cannot shoulder the fiscal burden of solving this problem,” Tekoah told more than 250 leaders of the American Sephardi community, Zionist leaders and Israeli officials who attended a dinner in honor of World Sephardi Federation president Nessim Gaon of Geneva, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel here. The event was sponsored by the American Sephardi Federation and the American Associates of Ben Gurion University.

Noting that equal opportunities for “good education” are instrumental for closing the social gap in Israel, Tekoah said that Ben Gurion University, which he described as the “Sephardi University” of Israel, has set the advancement of Sephardi students as one of its major goals. He itemized the priorities which the university gives to Sephardi studies, Sephardi students and the Sephardi community which comprises a majority in Israel and said that the university has the largest number of Sephardi students of any other university in Israel.

Gaon, who is also chairman of the Board of the Ben Gurion University, cited the urgency of eliminating the social gap in Israel and warned that “this scourge (of social inequality) can be catastrophic in the event that security becomes a secondary preoccupation” in Israel.

The government of Menachem Begin, Gaon said, “is the first Israeli government which is determined to settle this problem.” He pointed out that Begin had dispatched Minister of Social Betterment Israel Katz (who was present at the dinner) and Environment Minister Gideon Patt to the United States in order to rally United Jewish Appeal and United Israel Appeal leaders behind these efforts. He noted that all the leaders present had pledged their commitment to these efforts so that “Israel might simultaneously experience the miracles of peace and of equality.”

RESCUING SACRED OBJECTS

At a session of the World Sephardi Federation (WSF) Presidium which concluded its three day conference today at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Dr. Solomon Gaon, chairman of the WSF education committee and former Chief Rabbi of Britain, reported on recent efforts to retrieve and rescue important documents, sacred objects, and libraries which have remained behind in the once flourishing Sephardi communities in Communist Europe, the Arab countries and elsewhere.

“Over 200 Torah scrolls,” he reported, “have thus for been rescued and re-distributed for use by Sephardi communities in the United States, Canada, Israel, England and Latin America, Many of these scrolls have come from Egypt and Morocco and a year ago 10 Torahs were obtained through the Iraqi embassy in London.”

“Where a declining Jewish community still exists,” contacts should be made with the communal leaders to arrange for the orderly transfer of these items to Israel.” Where a Jewish community no longer exists, he called on the WSF to allocate special funds so that emissaries might visit these countries and trace whatever available remaining items there might be.

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