Tamara Bazazashvili, from Tbilisi, Georgia was born missing an outer left ear. As a result, for the first 13 years of her life, she underwent shame, embarrassment, and taunts directed at her. One day, all that changed. Through the generosity of The Harrison Trust, UJC of MetroWest NJ and Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), we were able to provide the constructive surgery in Israel to restore her hearing, and just as important, her self-esteem.
Accompanied by her mother, the surgery was performed at Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem, and the prognosis remains excellent for the future. As she visited Israel for the first time, Tamara was dazzled by the modern life and Jewish experience afforded to her by the Jewish State, and plans to enroll in the youth programs in Israel sponsored by the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI).
Now Tamara, her mother and family, and thousands of others have had their lives turned upside down by the war in Georgia. Tens of thousands of individuals have been displaced from their homes while fleeing the fighting. Our agencies on the ground, JAFI and JDC, have been working with hundreds of Jewish refugees to provide food, shelter, and safe harbor. Through its office in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, where most of the Jewish community of approximately 10,000 lives, JAFI coordinated the evacuation of 200 Jews from the city of Gori, adjacent to the conflict zone and is hastening the process for Georgian Jews to immigrate to Israel. It is anticipated that close to 100 will be making Aliyah to Israel by the end of this week alone! JDC staff provided food, water, and medicine to many of the estimated 750 Jewish refugees and similar services to non-Jewish Georgians.
The unrestricted Campaign of the United Jewish Appeal of MetroWest NJ supports the efforts of the Jewish Agency for Israel and JDC. I mention unrestricted because human events and associated Jewish needs are dynamic, and we need unrestricted resources to be able to respond to emergencies as they emerge.
The sudden needs created by the Georgia crisis reinforces this notion. Unrestricted UJA dollars fund specialized personnel from our partner agencies who, at great personal risk, are able to respond immediately and skillfully to the needs in Georgia. That is why when we use the motto that “no gift touches more Jewish lives than the United Jewish Appeal Campaign,” it is reflected in the reality of the streets of Gori and Tbilisi.
We just learned that Tamara and her family are safe. We wish their family, friends and fellow citizens of Georgia our best wishes as they confront the challenging days ahead of them.