The UJA-Federation of New York is reaching out to the Caucasus Jews in Israel with youth intervention programs.
The initiative, announced Wednesday, will focus on the community also known as Kavkazi Jews, or “Mountain Jews,” who immigrated to Israel in large numbers from Azerbaijan and Dagestan in the 1990s.
The pilot program being launched by the federation will have a budget of $500,000 in the first year and grow to $1 million over the next two years. It will focus its efforts in Beersheba, home to some 20,000 Kavkazi Jews, the largest population of the community in Israel.
As a deeply traditional community, Kavkazi Jews have had trouble integrating into Israeli society, and their adolescents are facing difficult times. Most do not complete high school matriculation exams, and many fall into crime and delinquency.
The program will include projects aimed at preventing high school students from dropping out, treatment for at-risk youth, and the establishment of youth centers for sports, music, martial arts and other activities.
“Our focus is young people, but through them we hope to impact the whole community,” said David Mallach,the managing director of UJA-Federation of New York’s Commission on the Jewish People.