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IsraelI Foods and recIpes advocatIng For Israel IsraelI BusInesses partner wIth Maryland


Connect To Israel is a collaboration between The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and Mid-Atlantic Media. The acceptance of advertisng does not constitute endorsement of the products or services. The publishers reserve the right to reject any advertisement that is not in keeping with the standing or policies of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. Copyright 2015, all rights reserved. Reproduction of any part of Connect To Israel without permission is prohibited.

The associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore 101 West Mount Royal Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21201 410-727-4828,, editor Rochelle Eisenberg

Mid-atlantic Media 11459 Cronhill Drive, Suite A, Owings Mills, Maryland 21117 Jeni Mann, Director of Custom Media, 410-902-2302, design Lindsey Bridwell, Cortney Geare

Dear reaDer, A commitment to Klal Yisrael, the link between Jewish people in Baltimore, Israel and around the world, is central to the work of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, our agencies and our overseas partners, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee ( JDC) and the Jewish Agency for Israel ( JAFI). It is what inspires us to act on behalf of Jews around the globe who need our support during difficult times. It’s what helps forge strong personal connections between individuals in Baltimore and those in other Jewish communities. This important notion informs The Associated’s overseas agenda, which includes providing over $7 million dollars overseas each year. In addition to caring for the vulnerable, these funds provide opportunities for Baltimoreans who want to feel more connected to Jewish communities abroad. We are proud of the relationship our community has built with our brothers and sisters in Israel, specifically in our sister city, Ashkelon. Through The Associated and its Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership, close and powerful bonds exist between people here and those in our sister city. We hear from our peers in Ashkelon that during difficult times, they feel the love across the miles from Baltimore and how that sense of belonging – of family – gives them hope in bleak times. But Israel is much more than rocket fire and shattered glass. On missions to Israel and through many collaborative initiatives with our sister city, we are able to pursue shared values and plan for a bright future. Every year, more than one thousand individuals from Baltimore travel to Israel to share meals, adventures, laughter and meaningful experiences with our friends in Ashkelon. This is why we have chosen to create this special publication with Mid-Atlantic Media, the publishers of the Baltimore Jewish Times. In these pages, you will learn about some of the people behind our unique relationship with Ashkelon and get a taste of what makes Israel so special. There are many ways to connect to Israel through The Associated. Hope we will see you soon at an Israel program here or in our beautiful Jewish homeland. Shalom and L’hitraot,

photography David Stuck

>>> on the cover Lee Cohen, Israel Campus Fellow at Towson Hillel Page 6 © Page 7 ©, ©, © Karaidel, ©, © Quaglia, © studyoritim, ©, © shishir_bansal Page 10 © Page 26 ©


Beth Goldsmith and Yehuda Neuberger Beth Goldsmith and Yehuda Neuberger are co-chairs of Israel and Overseas for The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

TAKE NOTE Powerful Partnership Jewish Baltimore believes in the power of partnerships. We know that by combining the efforts of like-minded organizations, we can accomplish more for the causes we hold dear. The well-being and security of Israel and her people is a concern shared by many in our community. To ensure this, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore partners with Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds Maryland and Hopkins Federal Savings Bank in an annual 100 percent matching program of Israel bonds purchased during the High Holidays. Since the 100 percent match began in 2008, actual investments during the High Holiday campaign have increased from $5 million to $9 million. Each bond purchased during the High Holidays is matched 100 percent by the combined investments of The Associated and Hopkins Federal. This match doubles the impact our community can have for Israel. Proceeds from the sale of Israel bonds have played a decisive role in Israel’s rapid evolution into a groundbreaking, globally emulated leader in high-tech, cleantech and biotech. And the impact on the local community can grow too: purchasers have the option of donating to or purchasing bonds for The Associated’s Annual Campaign. Baltimore is unique in the cooperative relationship shared by the local Israel Bonds office and the federation. It is a model for collaboration. This matching program reflects many of the values central to our community: partnership, concern for our global Jewish family and pride in Israel. — Melinda Greenberg

Planting the Seeds for Israel education Make new friends while developing special connections with someone from Israel. That is what The Associated’s Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership provides for our Baltimore community. One project that benefits from the Partnership’s support is the Pearlstone Center’s Jewish Community Gardening Collective (JCGC). The JCGC helps local schools, synagogues, early childhood centers and other Jewish institutions create community gardens that promote environmental values. This year, the program has been expanding to Baltimore’s sister city in Israel. As part of that effort, the JCGC coordinator is working with Israeli partners, familiarizing herself with Ashkelon’s gardens and finding ways to teach environmentalism through Jewish values. The coordinator also incorporates Israel education into garden events and lessons here in Baltimore. Some lessons compare the environments of the Baltimore and Ashkelon areas, while others teach about Israeli foods and culture Next steps include creating four new gardens in Ashkelon preschools to educate students about healthy eating and Jewish values as well as developing an Israel Education Garden at the Weinberg Park Heights JCC. For more information about how to get involved in the gardens locally or in Israel, visit — Sarah Mandel

Borderless Values A Jewish people in Ukraine, nearly lost to oppression, now enjoying a vibrant Jewish life … an elderly Holocaust survivor who needs basic financial assistance in order to eat …. a partnership between two communities utilizing lacrosse to teach at-risk youth life skills … a commitment to providing Jews experiencing anti-Semitism a chance for a new life in Israel. Every year, The Associated commits over $7 million of its Annual Campaign to help Jews around the world, with an emphasis on Israel (and our sister city, Ashkelon) and Odessa, our sister city in Ukraine. Local volunteers, dedicated to understanding and addressing the issues facing our global Jewish community, help The Associated determine where the dollars are needed most. The Associated funds initiatives that are extensions of the core values employed here in

Baltimore. Taking care of at-risk populations, ensuring they live with dignity and grace, and helping Baltimoreans feel connected to the Jewish communities abroad are fundamental priorities. In keeping with the mission of connecting the Baltimore community to Jewish communities abroad, a portion of the allocations fund programs that bring Israel to life in Baltimore, like Taglit-Birthright Israel, Baltimore’s Diller Teen Fellows, local teens who build friendships with the Diller Teen Fellows in Ashkelon, and Israel Campus Fellows, young Israelis living on four Maryland college campuses, promoting Israel through personal relationships and cultural activities. To learn more about what the Associated funds overseas, go to community. — Rochelle Eisenberg CONNECT TO ISRAE L • 3


alking through the Lewinsky Market in Tel Aviv is a feast, literally, for the senses. Barrels of dried fruits and brightly-colored rice and grain mixtures tempt the eyes, while the tangy olives and aromatic spices entice the nose. Then there are the tastes. Flavorful cheese, three varieties of savory hummus, six varieties of burekas, the sweetness of creamy Malabi, made of corn flour, vanilla bean, rose water and coconut milk topped with fresh pomegranate seeds – it’s a foodie’s dream. On this beautiful spring day, I’m lucky enough to be tasting my way through this almost 100-year-old market on a Delicious Israel Tour (, led by Israeli Inbal Baum, who grew up outside Washington, DC. The food I’m tasting is delicious. Yet, what comes



out of this tour, and, perhaps, is the most astonishing to me, is that the answer to the question — “what is Israeli food?” — is not what I expected. “Israel is a nation of immigrants and each group brought their culinary traditions with them. As such, Israeli food is a melting pot of flavors from all over the world. There is no one Israeli food,” says Baum. “For example,” she adds, “shakshuka (eggs baked in a spicy tomato sauce), which we’ve come to associate with Israel was originally brought to this country by North African immigrants.” Huppit Bartov, a native of Ashkelon who now lives in Baltimore with her family, agrees. “The definition of what is Israeli food is a tricky question.” Bartov, whose grandparents arrived in Israel from

Tunisia adds, “Street food is often thought of as Israeli — falafel, schwarma (which, by the way, is often served with French fries), hummus. But, in reality, like much of ‘Israeli’ food, its origins are in other parts of the world.” Jews from Arab countries brought shabach, falafel and schwarma; Jews from Turkey added burekas to the mix. Jews from Europe brought rugalach and schnitzel; Russian Jews incorporated borscht and herring, while the Northern African Jews of Tunisia and Yemen also contributed malawach and couscous to Israeli cuisine. (See sidebar for definitions.) A case in point. Aliza Friedman recalls that growing up in Israel, her family table was filled with foods that originated from different Sephardic countries. There was Middle Eastern favorites such as shakshuka, hummus and

kebobs, Moroccan specialties like chicken with celery, onions and currants. And a special meat dish made with prunes, apricots, carrots and onions. There was also fish made with olives, garlic, sweet pepper, saffron and cilantro. And always there were the salads. “There were a lot of salads. We probably had Israeli salad almost every night,” Friedman says. In fact, if there is one food that is quintessentially Israeli, says Bartov, it is the chopped salad, which consists of finely chopped cucumber, tomato and onion, dressed with lemon and salt. “It’s very basic, but most families eat it at least once a day,” she says. “Men often get into the act. They are often proud of how fine they chop their vegetables.” CONNECT TO ISRAE L • 5

tabouleh salad A simple and delicious salad from Ashkelon resident, June Narunsky

1 cup Israeli couscous 1 lemon, zested and juiced 3 Tbsp. olive oil Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper 1 cup finely chopped parsley 1 ⁄2 cup finely chopped cilantro 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint 2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced 3 scallions, chopped 1. Bring a medium-size saucepan of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Add the couscous and cook until al dente, 7 to 8 minutes. Drain couscous and cool. 2. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and zest with the olive oil to make a vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 3. In a large serving bowl, mix together the couscous, parsley, cilantro, mint, tomatoes and scallions. Toss with the vinaigrette and season to taste. Allow to sit for at least a half hour so the flavors can marry.

Yet, although some foods may not originally hail from Israel, many have been become a point of pride for most Israelis. Take hummus. “Everyone has their own recipe and everyone thinks theirs is the best,” laughs Bartov. “It’s like a friendly competition.” No one is sure exactly where hummus originated, but it is central to many Middle Eastern cuisines. The word “hummus” means chickpea in Arabic. In Israel, I’m told, as I dip into a warm, freshly-made version on my tour (I also eat one mixed with foul, an Egyptian fava bean), is served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s served fresh and warm and often doesn’t last more than a few hours. And it has to be made with chickpeas. “Avocado and black bean versions are not hummus,” Baum says. 6 • C O N N E C T TO I S RAEL

Some foods brought to Israel have been adapted to the culture such as the bureka. Brought to Israel by Turkish immigrants, this pastry is often filled with such items as eggplant, mushrooms and spinach. Immigrants, often adhering to the rules of Kashrut, substituted oil for the butter so that these savory pastries could be eaten with meat. Today, Israeli cuisine continues to evolve, with many Israeli chefs integrating these ethnic cuisines with local Israeli ingredients, fruits and vegetables, to create their own style of Israeli fusion cooking. “Even the classic shakshuka,” laughs Baum, “has become trendy. It used to be something one made at home. Now people go out to eat and it’s become expensive. You can even find versions with cream and spinach.” For more recipes, go to To visit Israel through the lens of food, go to

10 Popular Foods Found in Israel Hummus — Dip or spread made with chickpeas, tahini, salt and lemon. Shakshuka — Eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers and onions. Sabich — A pita sandwich stuffed with fried eggplant and hardboiled eggs. Falafel — Fried chickpea ball often served in pita with tahini, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and other sides. Israeli Breakfast — Hearty buffet breakfast which often includes a selection of cheeses, fish, vegetables, salads, fruits, eggs and sweets. Believed to have originated on the kibbutz. Israeli Salad — Salad of finely diced tomato and cucumber served at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

huppit Bartov’s shakshuka 1 Tbsp. olive oil 1 small onion 1 Tbsp. harissa or dry red chili flakes 4 cloves garlic 10 sweet ripe tomatoes or 1 large can of Italian crushed tomatoes* 1 Tbsp. sugar 

1 tbs. salt 1 Tbsp. dry sweet paprika 1 Tbsp. sweet paprika in oil 1 tsp. black pepper ¼ tsp. cumin 6 eggs Parsley for garnish Bread to sop up sauce

1. Sauté onions for 3-5 minutes. Add harissa/chili flakes in olive oil. Add garlic last to make sure it doesn’t burn and turn bitter. 2. Add tomatoes, sugar, salt, paprikas, pepper and cumin. Stir often and cook for about ten minutes. 3. When sauce is ready, create a “hole” in the sauce revealing the bottom of the saucepan. Add eggs, one egg at a time. Add eggs all around the saucepan. Cover pot and cook eggs in sauce for 5-7 minutes. 4. Add chopped parsley on top. Serve with bread to sop up the sauce.

Za’atar — Mixture of herbs, sesame and salt that is commonly eaten with pita and olive oil or sprinkled as a seasoning on other foods. Bureka — A Turkish-originated pastry stuffed with roasted eggplant, spinach, potatoes, mushrooms and cheese. Each is shaped differently and Israelis can tell what is inside by these shapes. Schwarma — Chicken, turkey or lamb is grilled on a vertical spit. Shavings are cut off and often served in a pita or lavash flatbread with tahini, cucumbers, onions, pickles, tomatoes, spicy sauce, etc. Malawach — Thick pancake that consists of thin layers of puff pastry brushed with oil or fat and served with crushed or grated tomato dip, hard boiled eggs or honey.

*Make sure there is only ONE ingredient in the can.


InternIng In Israel Baltimorean gains work experience By AMy LANDSMAN when she was in high school, Owings Mills resident Heather Winegrad toured Israel as part of The associated’s Diller Teen Fellows program. Fast forward seven years. She’s now back in Israel seeing the country from a whole different perspective, this time, as part of Masa Israel Journey, Top of Form, a post-college internship and volunteer program. Winegrad, 24, is one of 60 young adults taking part in the Masa Career Israel program, funded in part by The associated. She is working as an intern at the Jewish agency for Israel. your job?

I work in the missions unit. I’m working on programs that deal with partnerships between cities, like Baltimore-Ashkelon. I’m balancing five different missions, talking to people from all over the world, finding speakers and organizing programming. We have a group coming in that’s really interested in learning about Aliyah of Rescue — this is a big focus in France. The Jewish Agency has an absorption center in Ashkelon so we take groups there to hear stories from people who recently moved to Israel. you were a researcher at the Johns hopkins’ Bloomberg school of public health. what’s the difference working in Israel?

Punctuality is more of a value in the United States than it is in Israel! In Israel, creativity is really what they want: ideas, innovations. I’ve been in the research field for a long time. In research everyone is serious. In the U.S., they sit down at 9 o’clock, maybe get up for lunch and they leave at five. It is very by-the-book. In Israel, the printer is in my office, so people come in, ask me questions and they stay. It’s incredibly friendly. where do you live?

We’re living in Har Hatzofim, the student village of Hebrew 8 • C O N N E C T TO I S RAEL

University, the Mt. Scopus campus in Jerusalem. We always have people looking after us — people refer to the (Masa) staff as their guardian angels. But it’s an independent program. I have to get myself from A to B every day. I do my own shopping. orientation?

We had so many amazing speakers; we had Colonel Adi Bershadsky, the first female colonel in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). We had Racheli Frenkel, mother of Naftali Frankel, which was moving beyond words. We’ve had people with very different opinions. Journalists who are on the left side of the issues, journalists who are on the right side of the issues. We try to understand the complexities, everything from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the reform movement coming out in Jerusalem. It’s been quite an experience. how is your hebrew?

I had some tutoring, and I also had ulpan (instruction) and the ulpan is continuing. I’ve been working with a combination of English and Hebrew with my co-workers.


Favorite foods?


The rugelach at the [ Jerusalem] souk (from Marzipan Bakery). The best rugelach in the world! Hot hummus (masa bacha). It’s unbelievable. what surprised you about Israel?

Israelis are very hard on the outside and soft on the inside. I was at the souk trying to buy mushrooms. I had a thousand bags with me. The guy was busy and he ‘kinda shoved them at me. In America we would consider that somewhat rude. As soon as he handed me the mushrooms he saw these 20 bags, grabbed them out of my hand, put them all in one or two bags, and handed them back to me. To me, that’s the classic Israeli. They do what they have to do, but at the end of the day they’re people who care about other people.


Is Masa a good choice for young professionals hoping to build their careers?

Yes. I’m talking to people in Europe. And I’m talking to people all over Israel and learning from them. The work is absolutely more than just getting coffee. In fact, I have not been asked once to get coffee. When I return, I’d like to stick to the Baltimore-DC area. I want a career in Israel advocacy. It’s why I’m here. If you could have coffee with anyone in Israel, who would it be?

An IDF lone soldier because they have a very special way of reminding everyone why Israel is so important to us. I love hearing their stories.

learn more about Masa and other Israel internships at







Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds 1866-A Reisterstown Road ∙ Baltimore, MD 21208 · 410.484.6670 x1 *Available online only. This is not an offering, which can be made only by prospectus. Read the prospectus carefully before investing to fully evaluate the risks associated with investing in Israel bonds. Member FINRA


A GROWING BUSINESS Maryland working to secure hi-tech Israeli start-ups By MAAyAN JAFFE

eferred to as the start-up nation, Israel has the heart of an entrepreneur. It is that beat that drives the high tech industry in Israel’s busiest cities and most remote environs. With one of the largest number of startup companies in the world, including some 3,000 high-tech companies that call the nation home, Israelis thrive on innovation. Israel has found a natural ally in Maryland as these two innovative markets share strengths in cybersecurity, life sciences, aerospace, defense and homeland security. “The excitement of Israel is a great opportunity for the Baltimore Jewish community,” says Barry Bogage, executive director of the Maryland/Israel Development Center. “Everyone is looking at Israel. We can capture that kind of entrepreneurial spirit and make it grow in our country and state.” “Technology is something about Israel that everyone can kvell about,” he adds. “This is the future of Israel and Maryland and The Associated are engaged in that.” Here are three examples of how Maryland and Israel are embracing an entrepreneurial spirit and pushing the envelope … together.


MakIng connectIons: Israeli Technology Chooses Maryalnd You fracture your hip and are prescribed eight weeks of post-admission physical therapy. You cannot drive, so what do you do? YuGo. Founded by Israeli entrepreneur Dudi Klein, BioGaming, Inc.’s YuGo

“We took an existing technology, the gaming consoles, which are merely being used for entertaining video games with the aim of making money, and we are instead utilizing their capabilities to increase compliance and health outcomes of patients with physical challenges,” Klein explains.

Israel has one of the largest number of startup companies in the world with more than 3,000 high tech companies.

allows physical therapists to create a digital personalized exercise plan in a few seconds. The system automatically converts the plan into games tailored specifically for the patient, who then plays these graphic-rich and goaloriented games, while employing a virtual trainer from his own home. It’s not Clash of Clans, but rewards and challenges entertain and engage, motivating the patient to maintain momentum.

our market segment and facilitated meetings for us.” MIDC introduced YuGo to area hospitals and the product blew them away. It is now being used by such establishments as Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Washington Adventist Hospital and Sinai Hospital, among others. The hospitals are expanding the use of YuGo to use with children in the oncology ward who often lack the motivation to move and are too sick to play standard video games. Says Klein, “The possibilities are endless.” MIDC also has worked with other Israel companies, such as Headsense, finding them partnership opportunities with Maryland companies. Headsense, which has developed a device to

The company was founded three years ago and hit the market in Israel and other surrounding areas last year. Hundreds (maybe thousands) of individuals have already benefitted from the system. “I started working with MIDC about a year ago,” Klein recalls. “I defined the type of customers and partners we would ideally like to work with and MIDC approached the most relevant key players in CONNECT TO ISRAE L • 11






all the Facts

50 hospitals/major medical

In January 2014, Israel announced the creation of Cyber Spark, a national cyber park in Beersheva. Maryland’s lockheedMartin was among the first two U.S. companies to agree to invest in advanced technology projects in cloud computing, data analytics and cyber technology at the park. eMC Corporation was the other company.

Binational foundation grants shared by Maryland and Israel:

centers in Israel

58 hospitals/major medical centers in Maryland

3.7 doctors in Israel for every 1,000 people under the age of 65

1.8 doctors in Maryland per every 1,000 residents

700 approximate number of established med-tech companies in Israel

950 approximate number of established med-tech companies in Maryland

measure intracranial pressure — ideal for concussion management — is performing clinical trials with Sinai Hospital, the University of Maryland Hospital and Johns Hopkins Medicine. InFluencIng InnovatIon: Maryland Scientist, Israeli Entrepreneur Spark Deal A brilliant doctor and scientist at Johns Hopkins Medical Center, Hien Nguyen had a revolutionary vision: using a softer, more flexible and somehow inflatable retractor to hold back a patient’s intestines during laparoscopic surgery. Currently, surgeons use metal retractors, which can lead to multiple complications. But it was just an idea.


more than $27


Maryland exports to Israel, 1996 until today: more than

$766 million Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD) grant dollars shared by Maryland and Israeli companies for joint ventures:

$2.5 million Amount invested by Maryland companies in Israel each year:

$70 million “These doctors, they have a lot of ideas. But these doctors aren’t entrepreneurs. So their ideas stay ideas because they have no one to develop them,” says Assaf Livne. Livne, the CEO of LapSpace, worked with a team of Israeli engineers to turn Niguyen’s idea into reality. “It looks like a hand. You insert it through a small hole, deflated. Once it is inside the abdomen, you inflate it with a simple syringe. … It’s a ‘balloon’ that can sweep the intestines out of the way,” Livne explains. The product, invented on funds invested by the Maryland/Israel Trendlines Fund, was recently approved by the Food & Drug Administration and has been tested on more than three dozen individuals in five locations – including Johns Hopkins Medicine. The Maryland/Israel Trendlines Israel Fund is a collaboration between MIDC Corp, a subsidiary of MIDC, and the Trendlines Group Ltd. It offers investors opportunities to invest in early-stage Israeli companies

Amount in Maryland-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD) grants for strategic and applied research into agricultural problems:

$2 million since 1979 Multiple Internet sources through Jewish Virtual Library

in areas of medtech, agritech and cleantech. Says Livne: “MIDC was a gateway for us. Once they helped us make our entrance, we could move forward.” powerFul partnershIp: Israeli, Maryland Companies Team for Cybersecurity Success When Martin O’Malley was governor, he named Maryland the “epicenter of cybersecurity.” For Israel’s RADiFlow, a synergy with Maryland’s Patriot Technologies allowed it to enter the local cyber market. In 2014, RADiFlow and Patriot, based in Frederick, were awarded

Sam Feigin, partner, Crowell & Moring; Center (left) joins Jeremy Bash, founder and managing director of Beacon Global Strategies llC, and Yossi Gez, International Marketing and Business Development llC at MIDC’s Showcase of Maryland and Israel Business.

a grant from the Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD) to develop an automated smart grid system. MIDC made the connection between RADiFlow and BIRD and according to RADiFlow vice president of business development, “Things are progressing fast and well.� VP Ayal Vogel explains that the joint solution enables reliable and secure monitoring and control of cities’ smart grids. The partnership allowed RADiFlow to penetrate the U.S. market. Patriot provides cybersecurity for city and state infrastructure. The

team is discussing plans for Patriot to manufacture in the U.S., which would enable it to be sold directly to the government. “When it comes to cyber threats, the U.S. is not only worried about its enemies, but its friends. Having a U.S. partner alleviates some of those fears,� Vogel says.

This joint technology is the wave of the cyber future, explain Vogel, noting that as attacks become more sophisticated and complex, companies will need to keep innovating solutions that are ahead of the threats. Says Vogel, “RADiFlow is driving that technology,� he says.

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ashkelon: Beaches, History, People Make Baltimore’s sister city part of your Israel itinerary By ROCHELLE EISENBERG

Beachgoers enjoy the sunny Mediterranean Bar Cochva Beach in ashkelon.

MayBe it’s the spectacular pristine beaches, stretched over eight miles of Mediterranean coastline. Or perhaps it’s the warmth of the people who want to get to know you and quickly invite you into their homes. Or maybe it’s a rich history as one of the oldest cities in Israel. Whatever the reason, ashkelon, situated about 33 miles from Tel aviv, makes a great travel or volunteer destination, where one can embrace a people and also make a difference in their lives.


ashkelon: as tourIst destInatIon Many of the major Western civilizations left their mark on this seaport city, one of the largest cities in ancient Canaan (did you know Ashkelon thrived at a time when Jerusalem was considered a sleepy village?) Visitors can get a glimpse of this ancient history with a trip to Ashkelon National Park. Stepping through an impressive arched gate, purportedly the oldest in the world, visitors can see ruins from Canaanite, Philistine, Roman and Crusader times. There are sculptures from the Roman Era, fortifications from the Crusader period and wells from the Ottoman Empire that are currently being restored.

Ashkelon AMEN teen volunteers also are involved with several projects at the National Park to restore some of the ancient practices of the times. Through extensive research, they are re-creating several of the original

The Shevrin family volunteers in ashkelon during their trip to Israel.

Scenes from ashkelon: ashkelon Marina (left), the largest marina complex in the Middle east, sits on the base of a stunning cliff at the center of the tourist area; (top right) surfer in the Mediterranean waters of ashkelon, and (bottom right) the remnants of the 100 meter-long colonnaded roman Basilica, which served as the heart of the ancient roman city. It is located in ashkelon National Park. 

crops that were grown in Ashkelon thousands of years ago. One crop is the shallot, once so important to the city that the name “Ashkelon” was derived from its source. Following a trip to the Ashkelon National Park, tourists can enjoy a dip in the sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Ashkelon boasts many clean and free public beaches. A clifftop promenade, overlooking the sea and extending to the marina, is dotted with restaurants and bars. “I had no idea how beautiful it was,” says Quinn Salditch, who traveled to Ashkelon on a Taglit-Birthright trip through Johns Hopkins Hillel. “It’s different from most American beach towns.” “I recall sitting on the beach in Ashkelon and the Israelis were barbequing,” recalls Heather Greenebaum, who spent two weeks

volunteering in Baltimore’s sister city. “They offered us food. I was surprised; it’s not something I would expect. But Tali [her Ashkelonian friend who she originally met as part

voluntourIsM One of the growing travel trends is voluntourism, combining travel with a volunteer experience. According to

“I had no idea how beautiful it was. It’s different from most american beach towns.” — Quinn Salditch

of Diller Teen Fellows] told me this type of hospitality was typical.” Finally, if you have time, and young children, stop by the Lyn Stacie Getz Park, known as Baltimore Park. It was originially built by Baltimore residents, together with Ashkelon residents and the Ashkelon Municipality, in the framework of an Associated Family Mission.

a report by Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst and founder of the Atmosphere Research Group, a market research company, the number of people participating in voluntourism almost tripled in the past six years (in 2007 it was 3.5 million Americans, in 2014 it reached 10 million).


travel to Israel prograMs taglit-Birthright Israel Birthright is a free 10-day trip for 18 – 26 year olds. Special needs Birthright trips also offered. Family Mission Explore Israel’s historic and cultural highlights, volunteer in Ashkelon and meet leading experts. Call 410-369-9282

Masa Israel Journey A five to 12 month immersive Israel experience that includes gap year, study abroad, post-college and volunteer programs onward Israel Eight week summer internship that provides real-work experience for juniors, seniors

Because of The Associated’s Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership, there are ample volunteer experiences in Baltimore’s sister city to fit the interests of most individuals. Professionals from programs such as Jewish Volunteer Connection ( JVC) will meet with individuals to determine their interests and work with Ashkelon professionals to find meaningful volunteer opportunities. “There are so many opportunities for voluntourism in Ashkelon,” says

and recent college graduates. Live in a neighborhood of Tel Aviv experienceisrael volunteer abroad Volunteer in Ashkelon with a personalized program to fit individual or group interests.

Saralee Greenberg, who is chairing the Baltimore-Ashkelon Volunteer Committee. “If you are someone who played lacrosse, you can help teach lacrosse clinics in Ashkelon. You can work in a food kitchen, you can work with children with special needs or new immigrant children. The Associated and JVC will help you plan a volunteer trip to Ashkelon and work with you to make it meaningful to you and your family.” When Ellen Shevrin traveled to

Israel, she knew she wanted to make Ashkelon a stop on her trip. Having heard so much about the BaltimoreAshkelon Partnership, she wanted to find a way to volunteer through the Partnership. She reached out to Rebecca Weinstock at JVC, who talked to the Ashkelon staff, providing them with choices that would work within their time frame. Traveling with a party of 12, which included her parents in their 70s, her husband and children, two brothers and family members (including a five-year-old son), she needed a project that would engage multi-generations. JVC, working with their Ashkelon counterparts, connected the Shevrins to the Hava Education Farm, an environmental and educational farm with a story garden that engages many children with disabilities. The Shevrins picked vegetables and sunflowers there and also placed tiles as part of a mosaic at Ashkelon’s Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Volunteer Center. “It was so rewarding to see the five year old working side by side with the grandparents,” Shevrin recalls.

BIrthrIght: connects young Jews to Israel When asked about her favorite part of a recent Taglit-Birthright trip, Quinn Salditch really doesn’t know where to start. A jeep ride in the Golan Heights? Or maybe the powerful experience she had at the Western Wall with an old friend? Then, again, there was the time the group sat outside a Bedouin tent in the desert looking at stars and a seemingly endless horizon. And, if she thinks even more, she remembers listening to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at an event that brought together thousands of students from multiple Birthright trips. This past winter, Salditch traveled


to Israel with Hopkins Hillel on Birthright. Birthright, a free 10-day trip to Israel is designed to introduce young adults, 18 to 26, to the Jewish State. Birthright’s goal is to provide a personal connection to the country and its people and ultimately, the larger Jewish community. Arielle Messafi, a Towson University student who also went on the same Birthright trip, which brought together Johns Hopkins and Towson Hillel students, says, “you feel a special connection whether you are meeting people or going to the Western Wall. The trip brought home how nice it was being in a place with other Jews.”

arielle Messafi (second from left), on Taglit-Birthright to Israel, is joined by her friends (left to right), elyse Oliver, Kenzie lane and Sarah Braver.

For both Salditch and Messafi, the relationships they formed with the Israeli soldiers who accompanied the tours helped them understand and

Your Stories. What made the experience even more personal was that Sigal Ariely, partnership director in Ashkelon, scheduled a private tour of Ashkelon for the Shevrin family, and gave them a personal overview of how the two cities work together. “We create a personalized experience for each volunteer which includes tours, site visits and meetings with local volunteers and professionals, in addition to a meaningful volunteer project. We want to give Baltimroeans an understanding of Ashkelon as a city,” Rebecca Weinstock, senior associate, JVC, says. Weinstock advises that those interested should contact JVC six weeks to two months in advance of the trip to allow room to adjust and tweak the itinerary to make the experience as rewarding as possible. Greenebaum, 19, first visited Ashkelon as a Diller Teen Fellow, and she bonded with her Diller counterpart, Tali. She longed to return and, as a senior at McDonogh, she decided that she wanted to volunteer in Baltimore’s sister city for her senior project.

connect to the Israeli people. “I was surprised how some of the soldiers had similar family backgrounds to my family. We shared many Sephardic customs since my dad came from Egypt,” Messafi says. “It also was interesting that they liked the same music and movies and knew a lot about American culture.” “I wasn’t expecting to become friends with them. I thought they’d just be our guides and informers. Even though they are in the army and I am in college, they are so similar to me,” adds Salditch who extended her trip and spent a few days exploring Ashkelon with the soldiers. Typical Taglit-Birthright trips include Israeli soldiers for five of

“At first my parents thought it was a crazy idea. But I gradually convinced them that it would be a great opportunity,” she recalls. She spent two weeks last year in Ashkelon, living with relatives and Tali’s family. Working with JVC, she let them know about her love of children and was able to help out in a number of settings with young children. She volunteered in several English classes in schools, helping students improve their English. She also volunteered at the Barnea Absorption Center, playing with young children who were dropped off when their parents went to work. The experience was powerful. “I became independent and it reinforced how much I love working with kids. Community service makes me feel good inside.” For those thinking of incorporating a volunteer component into a trip, Greenebaum doesn’t hesitate with her recommendation. “It’s a great way to bond with people in a different setting.”

the 10 days. According to Jonathan Falk, the former Johns Hopkins Hillel assistant director, the Birthright trips run through the local Hillels (Johns Hopkins University, Towson University, Goucher College, UMBC and University of Maryland, College Park) receive additional funding from The Associated to ensure soldiers can participate in the entire experience. “When you travel with Israeli soldiers, you develop friendships and gain insight into a people,” says Falk. Falk adds that Birthright is just the first taste of Israel for many of these students, but it shouldn’t be the last. “We encourage the students, once they see how great Israel is, to return on other programs.”

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FIGHTING FOR ISRyEL local groups combat anti-Israel sentiment through education and advocacy By MELINDA GREENBERG

ark Edelson and Madison Luskin believe that knowledge is power. Staunch advocates for Israel, and leaders among their peers on Israel’s behalf, they know they must educate themselves about the country’s complicated history, relationships and politics. All of this enables them to feel confident to speak up against the hateful rhetoric of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, which promotes the


economic, cultural and academic isolation of Israel. Said to have begun at the 2001 UN Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, (see sidebar), the BDS movement spread throughout Europe in the early 2000s. Since then, it has not only gained supporters across Europe and the Middle East, but has also spread to the United States where college campuses are providing excellent breeding grounds for anti-Israel rhetoric and action.

Edelson and Luskin chair Young Pros Countering BDS, a leadership training program offered by the Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC), with funding support from and in partnership with The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. The six-session program is aimed at young adults who want to become better-informed, stronger advocates for Israel, specifically combating BDS and educating and informing others about Israel on

the aBcs of Bds what Is the Bds MoveMent (or caMpaIgn)? • The BDS Movement is a global network of individuals and organizations who aim to isolate Israel politically, economically and culturally. Their overall objective is to challenge Israel’s right to exist as the sovereign homeland of the Jewish people, often called delegitimization.

Bds goals? • Despite claiming to seek “peace,” the BDS Movement works unambiguously to undermine the “two states for two peoples” solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the commonly accepted goal of the United States, the European Union and the United Nations.

• The BDS Movement attempts to have their agenda adopted by institutions including colleges and universities, faith-based communities, labor unions, civil and human rights organizations and minority groups, as well as others they can influence.

• For example, the BDS Movement calls for the return of Palestinian refugees to modern day Israel, not a Palestinian state. This would eliminate the State of Israel, replacing it with an Arab majority state in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

Bds tactIcs? • Use boycotts, divestments and sanctions that place economic and political pressure on states to influence behavior.

why are acadeMIc, trade and cultural Boycotts proBleMatIc? • Promoting an academic and cultural boycott of Israel contradicts the principles of academic freedom and the open spirit of international cooperation between scientists, artists and others. It is counterproductive to

Madison luskin and Mark edelson chair Young Pros Countering BDS, a leadership training program offered by the BJC to inform young adults to be advocates for Israel.

college campuses, at young adult groups and through social media. “Each of us, as individuals, has the opportunity to become a strong voice for the pro-Israel movement,” says Edelson, a native of South Africa who credits his 10-day Birthright trip with forging his strong connection to Israel. “We need to provide the tools that we can use to counteract the

propaganda being used against Israel.” Chana Siff, associate director of Israel & Engagement at the Baltimore Jewish Council, an agency of The Associated, concurs that education is key in the fight against the BDS movement. As such, The Associated, the BJC and other local organizations — all of whom collectively form the Baltimore Israel Coalition (BIC) —

target Israel’s academic community, which promotes honest debate, criticism and self-examination within Israeli society. Israel’s universities enroll significant numbers of Arab students and are important forums for interaction and cooperation between Jews and Arabs. wIll Bds tactIcs solve the araB-IsraelI conFlIct? • The goal of peace depends on both Israelis and Palestinians working together with international support toward the mutual goal of a negotiated two-state solution. In contrast, BDS tactics are one-sided and focused solely on pressuring Israel, creating a distorted picture of the region. • Economic boycotts and divestment actions will not help the Palestinian people. The path to the two-state solution depends on creating an atmosphere of peace and reconciliation combined with economic development and political achievement. • Ever since Israel’s establishment, the Arab world has

work together to educate Baltimore’s Jewish community and give individuals the tools they need to speak up for Israel when confronted by supporters of the BDS movement. As a graduate student from 2000 to 2002 in the Middle East Center at Oxford University, Ellen Ginsberg Simon encountered firsthand hostility toward Israel, a country in which she had lived and to which she felt personally connected. Today, she is on the forefront of the community’s fight against BDS. “BDS is a well-funded and organized movement,” says Simon, who chairs the BIC with Jason A. Blavatt. “Many people are buying into the misinformation spread by the BDS movement.” Last fall, the BIC hosted an all-day conference that brought together professionals who work on Israel-related projects, as well as concerned community. The conference participants learned about the movement’s history and heard from Dr. Doron Ben-Atar, a professor of

tried to use an economic boycott to isolate and weaken Israel politically and economically. While Egypt and Jordan have trade links with Israel, most Arab countries do not trade directly with Israel. The Roadmap peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (proposed by the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations) specifically calls for the normalization of relations between the Arab states and Israel, including the return of trade links. the BottoM lIne • Israel is a pluralistic and democratic society. These tools are neither appropriate nor are they an honest attempt to bring about peace. The BDS Movement is using these tactics to tell an anti-Israel story which is counterproductive, disingenuous and plain wrong. Excerpted from the Israel Action Network (A strategic initiative of The Jewish Federations of North America, in partnership with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs).

history at Fordham University and a playwright. Dr. Ben-Atar faced charges of discrimination under Title IX at Fordham University after he took a strong stance against the American Studies Association’s decision to boycott Israeli universities and their affiliated professors. He resigned from that department. Simon noted that Dr. Ben-Atar’s experience is becoming an all-too common occurrence on American college campuses. “There is a great deal of hostility on campuses, including restrictions on academic freedom,” she says. “Some university administrations are not doing enough to address it. When university leaders turn a blind eye to or tacitly support these activities, they foster an uncomfortable environment for students and professors alike that is antithetical to their missions as institutions of higher learning.” Locally, Israel Campus Fellows, post-army-age young adults from Israel assigned to campuses for one or two-year terms, offer a person-toperson connection to Israel. In addition to building relationships and planning positive Israel programming on local campuses, the fellows help students gain the knowledge they need when faced with anti-Israel sentiments from peers or professors.

Sara Schankerman (left) and Shira Goldstein, University of Maryland, College Park students who hail from Baltimore, enjoy Israel Day on campus. The goal is to promote the country to the college community.

“At first, our students were uncomfortable because they didn’t know how to answer back to the group on campus,” says Hasin, who serves at Goucher for two years in a program coordinated by Hillel and the Jewish Agency for Israel, with financial support locally from The

“each oF us, as IndIvIduals, has the opportunIty to BecoMe a strong voIce For the pro-Israel MoveMent.” — Mark edelson Fellow Karin Hasin’s presence was especially helpful to the students at Goucher College’s Hillel recently when they dealt with a newly-formed student organization on campus, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which staged a protest following last summer’s Operation Protective Edge.


Associated’s Israel Engagement Center. “But they knew who to reach out to at Hillel and they trusted us to guide them.” “We did not allow SJP to set up as the anti-hero in our narrative. Our prime aim and goal is not actually about BDS on campus, it’s about moving the needle of support

for Israel among the rank and file,” says Rabbi Josh Snyder, head of Goucher Hillel. And the support is needed from beyond the Jewish community too. Baltimore is one of 21 cities involved in the Community Impact partnership, an initiative of the Jewish Federations of North America ( JFNA) in partnership with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs ( JCPA). In addition to training community members to advocate for Israel, the program empowers participants to enlist the help of others outside the Jewish community. “People think this is a Jewish issue. It’s not. It’s an American issue. There are sanctions being placed on our only ally in the Middle East,” says Luskin. “American Jews are such a small percentage of the population, and getting even smaller. It’s important to reach out to and engage non-Jewish Americans too.”

home Hospitality amith Family hosts Israeli teen By AMy LANDSMAN

SHINSHINIM are young Israelis who defer army service to spend a year in Baltimore. While here, they educate children and adults about the Jewish homeland, and help strengthen Jewish identity in the community. every year, two Shinshinim stay four months each at the homes of three different host families. adina amith of Baltimore’s Homeland neighborhood learned about the Shinshinim program through her involvement with the louise D. and Morton J. Macks Center for Jewish education, the sponsoring agency. last year, the amith family hosted Noy Schwartz from ashkelon, and, as mom, adina, tells us, they enjoyed the experience so much, they’re doing is again next year. what did you, your husband, cy, and your three children, rachel (sarenka) 23, noah, 20, and leah, 16, get out of hosting noy?

She became very important to us. A personality you couldn’t imagine! Totally lights up a room when she walks in. It made us closer to Israel. My dad is Israeli, so it’s not like we were unconnected. But meeting a young person really impacts you and makes you see Israel as a place with real people and the same teenage issues, and also a lot of different concerns. We loved having her around. what did your family learn from about Israel and about ashkelon you may not have known?

Just understanding what daily life is like in Ashkelon. She woke up one morning and didn’t have to go to work because it was snowing. She was so smiley! She said ‘I love snow days, they’re much better than missile days.’ That was really something, the fact that it was said in such a lighthearted way made us realize how she lives and how they cope with it. It doesn’t bring her down. There are a lot of very, very strong feelings about Israel in this country. There are strident voices that Israel is perfect or Israel is horrible. What I personally found interesting is that Noy and the other shinshin got along

beautifully, but they were politically different. They understood and listened to each other. And yet Americans who don’t even live in Israel have such black and white views, so to me, that was really interesting.

adina amith (right) and husband, Cy, at the ashkelon Marina with Noy Schwartz. The couple visited her on a trip to Israel.

are you still in touch?

My kids message her. I message mostly by Facebook. My husband and I went to Israel in November; we spent three days with her and her family. My daughter is going to Israel this summer with the Diller program but is staying extra to see her and her family. did you have to supervise her and take her around town?

She and the other shinshin had a car. She had her own bedroom. She was very independent, visiting schools, Hebrew schools and night programs. She had a lot of weekend things, such as Shabbatons. She was very easy to have around. so you just treated her as another member of the family?

When she was home, she became part of our family. We took her to my dad’s 85th birthday party. She had three host mothers and she called us all ‘mom’ and got us all Mother’s Day gifts. She got very excited when my daughter borrowed a dress of hers, she was like ‘I always wanted a little sister.’ She was like another kid, she was always included.


The third graders at the Joseph and Corrine Schwartz religious School of Beth Israel are part of Shevet achim, a twinning program with an ashkelon school. The program helps the students connect on a personal level.

teachIng Israel new approaches Focus on personal connections By BARBARA PASH t was shortly before Passover. The students in Yael Turkel’s third grade class at The Joseph and Corrine Schwartz Religious School of Beth Israel were creating a PowerPoint, complete with student photos, to help their friends at Nof Yam B School in Ashkelon understand the important places in their Jewish school life. Like where they prepared challah and Chanukah cookies for the Jewish holidays. Or met with the rabbi and hazzan for prayers. The PowerPoint was to be the basis of an interactive game between the two cities, in which the Ashkelon students would figure


out where the Baltimore students were hiding the Passover Afikomen. This was one of many projects taking place on both sides of the ocean. At the Berman-Lipavsky Religious School at Beth El, students introduced themselves by sharing important parts of their Jewish school lives through a video of the places in their congregation that meant a lot to them. Israeli students wrote letters in English about themselves and their families, and wanted to know more about their American counterparts. All these activities were part of Shevet Achim, a twinning program between schools in Baltimore and Ashkelon, Baltimore’s sister city in Israel. The goal is to personally connect these students to their peers and build ongoing relationships. Shevet Achim was launched in 2014. But it points to the direction lee Cohen, Israel Campus Fellow at Towson Hillel, joins in the celebration of Israel’s independence, during Yom Ha’atzmaut.


Jewish education has been taking nationally for at least a decade. In the past, that education focused on geography and historical facts. Today, the emphasis is on making Israel come alive through personal experiences from elementary school to college. No one is more aware of the change than Amalia Phillips, director of Israel & Overseas Education at The Louise D. and Morton J. Macks Center for Jewish Education (CJE). “The idea is to develop an emotional, spiritual and cognitive connection to Israel based on teaching principles,” says Phillips. “If students can’t be in Israel, let’s bring Israel here.” Phillips points to a 2008 study on Israel engagement and education — specifically, how to make it more effective — that The Associated commissioned from Makom; the Israel engagement network of the Jewish Agency for Israel. The CJE already had activities to build connections, including Israeli holiday celebrations and expanded Hebrew language opportunities.

Soliana Goldrich (left) joins her friends Zoe Summit and Yael Ben Haim for Israel’s 67th birthday. The celebration was put on by Goucher Hillel.

But the study spurred a host of new programs, and Shevet Achim is one of them. Joan Vander-Walde, CJE Israel education associate, oversees Shevet Achim, a twinning program that runs for three years, to 2017, and is being funded by the BaltimoreAshkelon Partnership. Three congregational religious schools (Beth El, Beth Israel and Bolton Street) and two day schools (Krieger Schechter and Ohr Chadash Academy) are matched with five elementary and secondary schools in Ashkelon, including an ORT School and two magnet schools, a general arts school and a religious science school. A total of 132 students are involved. “We want the students to feel a personal connection, a shared Jewish identity and shared concerns,” Vander-Walde says of the activities that teachers and administrators at the schools coordinate. Reut Friedman, a CJE Israel education associate, oversees Shinshinim, another program that links students. Funded since 2009 by The Associated, Shinshinim brings two Ashkelon teenagers annually to Baltimore for a year of work in Jewish schools and at the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Baltimore.

“They’re young, 18 years old, and they expose students here to someone just like them,” Friedman says of conversations about being a teenager in Israel, from social activities and youth movements to clothes, food and music. “I tell [the Shinshinim] youth, you are cultural ambassadors 24/7,” says Friedman. Jill Max chairs the Israel Engagement Center (IEC), which grew out of an Associated task force. The center sponsors Israel Campus Fellows, a national program The Associated began funding three years ago. “Studies were done on the best way to go forward from high school. It turned out to be through peopleto-people contact and experiences of Israel,” says Max. “Our programs are very intentional.” Currently, there are 65 Israel Fellows on campuses in the United States and Canada. Four are in the local area. For the first time this year, Johns Hopkins University, Goucher College, Towson University and University of Maryland College Park each has an Israel Fellow as part of the Hillel staff. “We expanded the program because we felt it was working. We found through meetings with Hillel

that the Fellows are having an impact on students,” says Max, who is also director of the Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University. The Fellows arrange TaglitBirthright Israel trips and recruit Jewish students for other Israelrelated programs. They get to know the students on a personal basis through conversations, casual meetings and coffee get-togethers. They talk about the positive experiences Israel offers. If a student wants to go to Israel for an internship or graduate work, the Fellows will follow up. Whatever the student’s interests are, they find out what is available. The Fellows also work with non-Jewish groups to promote a better understanding of Israel, for example, by participating in a campus-wide international festival or programming with the Muslim Student Union. “They talk about different aspects of Israel, like the diversity of the population, the involvement in international relief efforts, the encouragement of start-up companies. They present a positive image of Israel that doesn’t get portrayed in the media,” says Debbie Pine, executive director of Johns Hopkins Hillel. Two other IEC programs have the same goal as the Israel Fellows. One is Onward Israel, which sends college-age students on eight-week internships in Tel Aviv. Participants are matched with companies suited to personal career goals. Masa Israel Journey, a longer-term program that provides work and/or volunteer opportunities in Israel for post-collegiate young adults for five to 12 months. “In many instances, parents become involved in Israel through their children’s participation in the program,” says Max.


Stories of Hope Meet Alegnah and Damir By ROCHELLE EISENBERG

Every day, thousands of Israelis, just like their American counterparts, seek support through programs dedicated to helping those at-risk. They are the newly arrived, who learn Hebrew and receive services so they can acclimate to a new country, the at-risk children who are being abused and find shelter in a residential home. There are those who have disabilities who want to be productive members of a community and the youth who use sports to gain self-confidence. There are many faces of the vulnerable, and, through agencies like the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee ( JDC), these individuals gain skills and receive the professional support that can make a difference. Here are stories of success: The New Immigrants Born in Cuba, Alegnah Zavitzki is a single mom, raising a 13-year-old son, Adnes. Worried about his future in his native country, Zavitzki — with the encouragement of her father, who made aliyah to Israel last summer — picked up and moved to the Jewish State. Alegnah and Adnes joined her father and his wife in Ashkelon, living in an apartment at the Barnea Absorption Center. In addition to housing, The Barnea Absorption Center provides services to help new immigrants thrive in their adopted country. “I study [Hebrew] in the ulpan (Hebrew classroom) every day from morning to noon. We have students from all over the world; France,

Ukraine, Russia and Africa. We are learning to read and write and I try to speak Hebrew with my friends during break.”

Immigrants come to ashkelon from countries all over the world, including France, russia, the Ukraine, ethiopia and argentina. The center also helps those making aliyah (moving to Israel) with services they need, provides assistance with

social services and higher education and offers programs such as it Barnea Professional Retraining program, featuring professional courses, internships and preparation for Israeli medical licensing exams. The organization also works with local employers to find jobs for the immigrants. The center is run and supported by the Jewish Agency for Israel. It also receives grants for programs from other organizations, including the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership. “We prepare them for higher degrees or direct them to a suitable course of study,” says Danielle Mor, with The Jewish Agency. “We help prepare them for the labor market in Israel. Those making aliyah need jobs and Israel needs good employees.

Through Supported Housing, Damir Miller can begin living on his own.

For Zavitzki, these services will be critical to her success. A bookkeeper in Cuba, she hopes to eventually find work in her field. Yekatrina, 19, made aliyah to Israel last October from Belarus. Although she has no relatives in Israel, she moved to the country to study, start a new life and start a family. This English teacher and sometimes waitress, studies Hebrew at Ashkelon College. She also is part of the Asheklon College’s Taka program. The Barnea Absorption Center has been instrumental in helping her acclimate to her newly-adopted country. “The staff here has helped me so much, there isn’t one question that has gone unanswered. We have taken trips to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and have barbecues, bowling, movie nights, workshops with psychologists about our absorption in Israel and have celebrated holidays such as Purim and Passover together. In another five years, I hope I will have a family (maybe even an “Israeli” sabra husband) and children. I want to teach English and I dream about playing music and singing. I love Israel and I feel at home here.” Adds Zavitzki, “I hope that in five years I will know Hebrew very well and I will find a good job. My son will be big by then and perhaps a soldier in the IDF. I love Israel very much and I love the sea (the sun, less, since I am a redhead). There are many wonderful people in Israel who are willing to help with endless warmth and love.”

Nothing Keeps Him Down An unexpected disability is not stopping Damir Miller from living a productive life in his newly-adopted country.

Miller, a thirtysomething who became paralyzed from the waist down following surgery for a spinal tumor, is an engaging and motivated young man. Listening to him speak, it’s evident that he does not let his disability define him. A software developer, who recently started his own business –he is always thinking of ways to turn ideas into profits — he is determined to be independent. And that includes living in his own home. Thanks to the work of JDC-Israel Unlimited (in partnership with the Ruderman Family Foundation and the Government of Israel) and grants from the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership, The Supportive Housing Network will be offered to

Miller and other Ashkelon residents with disabilities. The program provides individuals with disabilities support and advocacy to bridge the transition to move into their own homes and live independently. The program provides assistance in finding a suitable apartment, assists in securing grants to make the apartment accessible and facilitates the transition to an independent lifestyle. In addition, after move-in, an independent living counselor will assist with home repairs and medical services as well as supply mentorship. In Miller’s own words: “Because of Supported Housing, I am on track to begin living on my own. Words cannot express how important this is to me!”


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