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What Jews Have to Do With Haiti

What Jews Have to Do With Haiti

This week I wrote about Mark Kurlansky’s seemingly strange inclusion in "Haiti Noir," a collection of short stories written mostly by Haitians. You’re not wrong for wondering whether Kurlansky’s Haitian–he’s not–but he did once have a long career reporting from the island in the 1980s. But the story begs the question, are there other good Jewish Haitian stories we should know about?

Yes, there are. But I’m thinking about real-life stories here, particularly related to the earthquake, which happened almost exactly one year ago. The anniversary stories we’ve been reading this past week have not focused much on Jews, and nor should they: this is a Haitian tragedy, and we should focus on them.

But in my little perch here in this corner of the great, gaping Web, I’ll offer a few recap news stories you may have forgotten.

First was the tremendous effort by Israel, the first country to set up a hospital on the island in the wake of the Jan. 12, 2010 quake.

Then, of course, there was the inevitable backlash, as some Israel critics saw it as a cynical P.R. coup for the country.

The Forward also had a fascinated story about the island’s remaining 25 Jews–tiny, and even more so when you consider the island has 9 million citizens. (Republished in Ha’aretz.)

Our paper had some nice pieces too, from stories about local New York Jewish groups holding fundraisers, to the deep-seated, if recondite connection of Jews to voodoo.

But most important is the future. Many Jewish groups–Orthodox, Reform, a myriad of secular groups–continue to contribute to aid efforts. But the leading group is the American Jewish World Service. In the year since the quake, they’ve raised about $6.4 million. And critically, it’s all directed to grassroots Haitian groups committed to the country’s long-term rebuilding. The AJWS has also pledged to give $4 million to the island for at least another three years, doing the due diligence that us journalists–this one included–have not. Which is to say, keeping the island’s ongoing troubles in the news.

In the end, Haiti’s problems must be fixed by its citizens. But no country–even that one–is an island. Everyone can help.

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