Rudy Giuliani and friend
Saving Lives from
Life on the Street
Story and Photos by Tim Boxer
IKE the old friends they are, Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert bounded onto the dais and gave Rudy Giuliani a great bearhug at Elem’s 20th anniversary dinner at the Pierre Hotel.
“Ehud is the mayor of the second greatest city in the world,” the former New York mayor declared.
For his part, Olmert said Giuliani is the only non-Israeli who is an honorary citizen of Jerusalem. “Rudy will be a hero forever.”
Both men were honored by Elem, an organization that provides social services for Israel homeless, abandoned or runaway street children.
Olmert said he was elected in 1993 by Jerusalem’s haredim [extreme Orthodox] just as Giuliani was elected by New York’s haredim. After the elections, he came by the Giuliani campaign offices and was struck by the hundreds of haredim milling about, all garbed in black coats and hat.
“Tell me, Rudy,” Olmert said, “are these haredim yours or mine?”
When Giuliani visited Olmert, he rode on Bus 18, a popular route for suicide bombers at the time.
Arnold and May Forster.
“Rudy will remain a hero forever in Jerusalem,” Olmert said.
In saluting Elem, Giuliani said he knows of its good work through Olmert.
Olmert was introduced to Elem two decades ago when he was a junior attorney in Jerusalem. Kenneth Bialkin approached him on behalf of his wife Ann, founder of the organization, to do volunteer work.
“Ann, a native of Nashville, a graduate of Sarah Lawrence, and a trained social worker, had a dream of giving the children of Israel the same opportunities as the children of New York,” said May Forster, Elem vice president.
As an example of Elem’s success, 16-year-old Oshrat Mashasha told how she was reconciled with her family and saved from a life on the streets.
“My parents didn’t understand me,” she related. “They wanted to live in Israel the same way they lived in Ethiopia.”
That generation gap caused severe conflict in the family. One day an Elem social worker paid a visit.
“For the first time I sat together with my mother and we talked,” Oshrat said, tears streaming down her cheeks.
Since then her relationship with her parents blossomed, she gained renewed pride in her culture and roots, and hopes one day to become the first Ethiopian woman doctor.