ROME (Feb. 20)
Rome’s 10,000 member Jewish community has offered to “adopt.” a family of Vietnamese refugees, one of the thousands of so-called “boat people” who have fled their native country and live afloat off Asian shores waiting for some country to accept them. The community intends to provide housing, jobs and all other necessary support for the family in a symbolic gesture of solidarity. As Rome’s Chief Rabbi Ello To off told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “When we ?ad of what is happening to the Vietnamese refugees, it seemed as if we were reliving a page of Jewish history.
But the humanitarian gesture has become ensnarled in the some tangle of bureaucratic red tope that has prevented the Italian government from approving the admission of refugees. So for, Italy has done no more than grant transit visas to 88 Vietnamese. Israel, by contrast, did considerably more when It admitted 101 refugees who had spent months aboard a freighter at Manila and provided them with homes.
The Israeli gesture prompted the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore to comment that Israel hoped to “set an example” 16 other richer and more powerful nations. The paper noted that “most of the refugees had never heard of Israel but all were grateful for the offer and most expected to find a new home in the Jewish State.
The Israeli gesture also insured the Jewish community here. Toaff said, “We cannot help but be reminded of the odyssey, tragic in many cases, of our Jewish refugees after the last World War when shiploads of homeless people were sent from one port to another, often ending up back in Germany.”