As of today, we will be narrowing our focus to working on offline related projects until June 1st.
Please know you may continue to contact us by e-mail during this break period.
We are delighted to report receiving a total 55,900 views since beginning the project on 3/31/2010. Readers from 144 countries have accessed the blog.
Thank you for your ongoing interest and for spreading the word about our efforts.
Harriet and Bill
Digital Journal March 16, 2014
By Amelie Baron
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Better known for producing third-world poverty and political mayhem – as well as a world-class rum – the Western Hemisphere’s least developed country has made a surprising entry into the high-tech world with its own Android tablet.
Sandwiched between textile factories in a Port-au-Prince industrial park next to a slum, a Haitian-founded company has begun manufacturing the low-cost tablet called Sûrtab, a name closely resembling the Haitian Creole for “on the table.”
Unlike the factories next door where low-paid textile workers churn out cheap undergarments for the U.S. market, Sûrtab workers are equipped with soldering irons, not sewing machines.
Dressed in sterile white work clothes, and a hair net, Sergine Brice is proud of her job. “I never imagined I could, one day, make a tablet by myself,” she said.
Unemployed for a year after losing her position in a phone company, Brice, 22, was not sure she had the skills when she took the job after Sûrtab opened last year.
“When I arrived and realized the job deals with electronic components, I was wondering if I would be able to do it. But when I finished my first tablet … I felt an immense pleasure,” she said.
Her family and friends were skeptical. “None of them believed me,” she said. “Tablets made in Haiti? What are you talking about?” they told her.
“Haitians have in our minds the idea that nothing can be done in this country. I proved that yes, we Haitians have the capacity to do many things,” she said. “It’s not just Americans or Chinese. We’ve got what they’ve got, so we can do it too.”
With $200,000 in start-up funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and using imported Asian components, the factory produces three models all with 7-inch (18-cm) screens that run on Google Inc’s Android operation system. They range from a simple wifi tablet with 512 megabytes of RAM for about $100, to a 3G model with 2-gigabytes of memory for $285.
The small factory with 40 employees is a throwback to the 1970s and 1980s when Haiti had a thriving assembly industry, including computer boards, as well as baseballs for U.S. professional teams.
Political turmoil, and a U.S. economic embargo in the 1990s following a military coup, put them out of business.
“A product such as Sûrtab shows that Haitians are not just destined for low-wage, low-skilled jobs,” said John Groarke, country director for USAID. “It’s the sort of high-skilled job that the country needs to work its way out of poverty.”
Brice, who works an eight-hour shift, would not disclose her salary. Sûrtab employees receive a bonus for each tablet that successfully passes the quality control and the company says it pays two to three times the Haitian minimum wage of $5 a day.
With only a limited selection of expensive imported tablets available in Haiti, Sûrtab is the cheapest device on the market.
“It’s easy to use and it takes really good quality photos, like any other tablet,” said one happy customer, Lisbeth Plantin. “And it’s great to see ‘Made in Haiti’ on the back,” she added.
At the factory there is no production line, instead workers assemble each device from start to finish.
“We could have done like in Asia, one task per employee, which is faster, but we wanted to have a better quality product,” said Diderot Musset, Sûrtab’s production manager.
Depending on the model, it takes an employee between 35 minutes and an hour to make a tablet. The company produces between 4,000 to 5,000 tablets a month, but plans to double that in April.
“We want the parts of the market which are not taken by the big players, especially in developing countries. These people would like to have a tablet but cannot afford an iPad,” he said, referring to the Apple Inc device that costs at least $300 in U.S. stores and is barely available in Haiti.
All the factory floor employees are women.
“It was not a choice we made but it happens that women have better results. I think women may be more open to learn something completely different from what they were doing before,” Musset said with a smile.
The company is running into inevitable skepticism about the quality of a Haitian-made tablet. “Some people only believe in it when they come here and see the girls working,” he said.
The company has a retail distribution deal in Haiti with Digicel, a global telecom company that dominates the local cellphone market, as well as sales to Haitian government ministries and local non-governmental organizations.
A university in Kenya also ordered 650 Sûrtab devices.
Sûrtab is hoping to diversify its product line beyond tablets, said Patrick Sagna, director of business development.
“We want to establish a presence in the software sector. We are in contact with people from San Francisco who are ready to work with Haitian developers,” he said.
Sûrtab’s investors are looking to build an applied science graduate school, as well as looping in Haiti’s skilled arts and crafts industry to help with design.
“Rather than importing covers for our tablets, we will produce them locally,” said Sagna. “We want our packaging, made with recycled and recyclable materials, to become a traveling cultural exhibition to highlight Haitian culture around the world,” he added.
(Additional reporting by David Adams. Editing by David Adams and Lisa Shumaker)
As we mark one year since this remarkable Haiti child survivor’s passing, we want to share some memories.
The Rosenberg and Mohr families were close friends in Germany and Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Harry (age 10) remembered seeing Bill (age 4) on his many frequent visits to the Mohr home in Haiti.
Below is a picture of Bill and Harry’s reunion in San Francisco on August 13, 2011. The wonderful experience which is one of the most satisfying and pleasurable outcomes of doing our blog work. Also below is Harry and his brother Edgar’s Tikkun Olam award.
All the best in 2014,
Harriet and Bill
Note: Professor Robert Wistrich is Tikkun Olam Award recipient # 19. See 10/27/13 Jerusalem Post article below.
Anti-Semitism in Australia
Australian Jewry is compelled to spend large sums for its security because of the ever-present possibility of an anti-Semitic attack such as the one committed Saturday.
Eight or so young men shouting anti-Semitics epithets viciously attacked four men and a woman – visibly Jewish – as they returned home from a Shabbat evening meal in Bondi Beach, Australia, this weekend.
The Jewish group sustained injuries that include a fractured skull, facial fractures, a broken nose, cuts and bruising.
TV footage shot after the incident showed victims bleeding profusely from their heads and faces. Included in the group was Shlomo Ben-Haim, educational representative for the New South Wales Jewish National Fund.
Although some websites jumped to the conclusion, based on inconclusive security camera footage that captured part of the attack, that the assailants – two 16-yearolds and a 23-year-old – were Muslims, an Australian source said that only the adult’s name was released, and it sounded “southern European.”
The attack surprised leaders of Australian Jewry. “Who would have believed something like that could happen in Australia,” JNF executive director Ygal Shapir said. Peter Wertheim, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said the attack “appeared to be the most serious incident of spontaneous anti-Semitic violence in Australia in living memory.”
Jeremy Jones of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, who has been tracking anti-Semitic incidents for 25 years, told The Jerusalem Post this was the most extreme incident of anti-Semitism that he had heard of in the country.
There are “over 530” anti-Semitic incidents a year – including assaults, harassment, hate mail, threatening telephone calls, graffiti, leaflet campaigns and email, according to Jones.
Prof. Robert Wistrich, head of Hebrew University’s Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism, noted in a section on Australia in his 2010 book A Lethal Obsession: Antisemitism – From Antiquity to the Global Jihad that about two-thirds of attacks on Jews appear to have come from extreme Right or neo-Nazi groups, “which are numerous and rather diverse in Australia;” and the remaining third of the anti-Semitic perpetrators seem to be evenly split between the extreme Left and a number of Arab-Muslim groups. Today the Muslim population in Australia is about double the Jewish population of approximately 120,000 and is concentrated mainly in Sydney and Melbourne like the Jewish population.
Surveys do not show Australia to be a particularly anti- Semitic country. True, a full 69 percent of Australians see Israel’s influence as “mainly negative,” according to a BBC World Service Poll published in May. This was higher than the world average of 52 percent but about the level in Britain, France and Germany.
Consecutive Australian governments have been pro- Israel, and the newly elected Liberal-National coalition government headed by Tony Abbott has followed in that tradition. Indeed, after the US and Canada, Australia is Israel’s closest ally.
Wistrich reckons Australia’s pro-Israel sentiment might have something to do with the country’s frontier society that very much identifies with the spirit of enterprise and initiative that Israel embodies.
Australians’ ties with Israel go back to the central role it played in creating the British Mandate in Palestine by securing Britain’s victory over the Ottoman Empire in the First World War. And while there are expressions of xenophobia, particularly against immigrants, traditional anti- Semitism is quite low in intensity in Australia, compared to, say, Britain, a country with a comparable culture. The superbly organized and affluent Jewish community is well integrated into Australian society. Australia’s multi-culturalism and tolerant credo have been remarkably successful.
Nor was Australia seriously affected by the financial crisis.
Nevertheless, Australian Jewry is compelled to spend large sums for its security, not because politicians or other prominent public figures promote a hostile climate – they do not. Rather, precisely because of the ever-present possibility that someone, influenced by the sorts of stereotypes about Jews that never really go away, might commit an anti-Semitic attack such as the one committed on Shabbat.
As Wistrich notes, there has been a general pattern of rising antagonism against Jews in recent years. Apparently even Australia’s Jewry is not immune to this trend.
Harriet and Bill
To hear Prime Minister Netanyahu’s 10/2/13, 45-minute interview, with Charlie Rose click HERE.
Please note we are slowing down to work off the blog on related projects and look forward to reconnecting at the end of the month.
Best wishes always,
Harriet and Bill
From: Lizette Ottensten (A Danish family cousin of Bill Mohr)
To: HaitiHolocaust <email@example.com>
Sent: Tue, Oct 1, 2013 2:32 pm
Subject: Re: Commemorating the 70th anniversary of rescuing Jews in Denmark
Dear Bill and Harriet
This was something I wrote for you and you are welcome to publish it. It is my version after hearing abut this all my life. After reading several articles these past days, reading about the newly published books, watching a just released film with eyewitness stories, checking the Jewish museum website www.jewmus.dk and hearing the rabbi and eyewitness stories at the celebration on Sunday. Also I have interviewed Anne-lie.
You can also read about it on www.humanityinaction.org
And a lot here: www.usa.um.dk - Commemoration of the 70th Year of the Rescue of Danish Jews During World War II
From: Lizette Ottensten
To: HaitiHolocaust <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Tue, Oct 1, 2013 1:34 am
Subject: Commemorating the 70th anniversary of rescuing Jews in Denmark
Dear Bill and Harriet,
These days we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the rescue of Jews in Denmark – a well known and beautiful story and a light in the dark. Denmark was occupied by the Germans from 1940 but he Danish parliament collaborated with the Germans until 1943. This meant that daily life in many ways could continue but of course in a restricted way, and the more than 7.000 Danish Jews could continue their lives in Denmark because the Danish government succeeded in keeping the Jewish question out of the deals with the Germans. A few of them were our family – Friedrich, Betty, Lutz and Anne-Lie Ottenstein who had come to Denmark in 1939.
In 1943 the Danish government resigned and Germans took completely over. Jews in Denmark were secretly ordered deported, but a German official tipped off Danish lawmakers who told Jewish leaders. A few days before the deportation was to take place the rabbi in our synagogue in Denmark told more than 100 people who had come to synagogue in the morning that hey should not be home the following Friday. Sweden had implied that they would welcome the Danish Jews and therefore Jews in Denmark were sailed from many places along the coast in little row boats, fishing boats etc. A lot of Danes from all parts of society helped and we have since then celebrated the human aspect – the Danish people wouldn’t let their neighbors and fellow citizens be deported but helped them flee. Of course not everybody did this only because of a kind heart, some took quite a big amount of money to sail people to Sweden, but others did it without asking anything in return.
Some families also had to leave their younger kids in Denmark because they feared fleeing with kids who might cry or make noise. They had friends or helpers in the country pretend the little kids were their own. Nobody talked much about it. The kids were saved but of course it was traumatic to be left and then 2 years later be taken away from what they now saw as their own family, when their real families returned from Sweden after the war. Some of them didn’t remember their biologic families at all anymore.
More than 7.000 Jews fled – around 500 were brought to Theresienstadt. Miraculously the Danish Jews weren’t sent to death camps from there, but 54 of them died in concentration camp.
Also the Ottensteins had to flee and their first attempt to reach Sweden was already in September. They were captured, but at that time Danish police was still in charge, so they were put in jail, but came out again after a more or less fake trial. The second time in the beginning of October when Gestapo had taken over, they succeeded getting to Sweden.
Love and thoughts
For more details see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rescue_of_the_Danish_Jews
Kerry after briefing PM Netanyahu on Syria accord: Diplomacy preferred solution, but ‘no option off the table’
Netanyahu: If diplomacy has any chance to work it must be coupled with a credible military threat.
To read 9/15/13 Jerusalem Post article, click HERE
HAPPY BIRTHDAY EDGAR ROSENBERG
Haiti Child Survivor
Click HERE for Edgar Rosenberg’s writing.