January 21, 2010 / 6 Shevat, 5770
For the twelfth consecutive year, the Barnea Absorption Center in Ashkelon is running a "Big Brother" program for its residents. This year, the project received a new member - Barney Gottstein from Alaska.
Gottstein, a donor from Anchorage, Alaska, heard about the special program and was excited to take part in it and lend it his support. The program involves young Ethiopian immigrants currently pursuing academic studies who serve as "big brothers" for the elementary school children in Ashkelon.
Some of the students live in the Barnea Absorption Center and provide hands-on assistance for the children in the center. They help the children with their studies, serve as liaisons between parents and teachers, and also work to advance and cultivate the rich Jewish Ethiopian heritage.
On December 19, 2009, three generations of Gottstein donors arrived in the absorption center in Ashkelon for a visit. They met with the program's coordinator and the "big brothers," and they heard about the project's resounding success. Due to illness, Barney Gottstein, who is now 85 years old, was unable to join his family. Nevertheless, 17 of his family members from Alaska - three children, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren - visited the center and got a firsthand look at the program.
Additionally, a senior delegation of leaders of the Keren Hayesod Fund in France visited Barnea's "Big Brother" program this week. The delegation members were visibly impressed by the quality of the program. They met with the absorption center's director who initiated the project, the coordinator, the "big brothers," and a "little brother" and his father - immigrants living in Barnea. The French visitors expressed their interest in perhaps supporting a similar program in the future.
Report and photos: Leon Levitas