Judith A. Sokoloff
Magazine of Na’amat USA Summer 2011 Vol. XXVI No. 3
Making Their Mark in the Arts........................................................... 4
Editor Judith A. Sokoloff
with their traditions and talents. By Judith Sudilovsky
A small but growing number of Ethiopian Israelis are enriching the performing arts
Assistant Editor Gloria Gross Art Director Marilyn Rose Editorial Committee Harriet Green Sylvia Lewis Sharon Sutker McGowan Elizabeth Raider Shoshana Riemer Edythe Rosenfield Lynn Wax
Traveling Green............................................................. 8 A grassroots phenomenon, eco-tourism is thriving in Israel. From the funky to the luxurious, take a tour! By Michele Chabin
Keeping Judaism Alive in Venice.................................... 12 The Jews of Venice are at a crossroads. Can they succeed in strengthening Jewish life — or will the Ghetto remain just a famous
Na’amat usa Officers PRESIDENT Elizabeth Raider
site of memory? By Judith A. Sokoloff
Na’amat News................17 A high school principal talks about his work; a women’s rights center
VICE PRESIDENTS Gail Simpson Chellie Goldwater Wilensky
comes to the aid of an Israeli in distress; Na’amat marks 90 years;
TREASURER Debbie Kohn
women celebrate their solidarity — and more.
FINANCIAL SECRETARY Irene Hack RECORDING SECRETARY Norma Kirkell Sobel Na’amat usa Chairs Harriet Green National Funds, Gifts, Bequests Lynn Wax Club & Council Fund-raising Na’amat Woman (ISSN 0888-191X) is published quarterly: fall, winter, spring, summer by Na’amat USA, 505 Eighth Ave., Suite 2302 New York, NY 10018 (212) 563-5222.
Our Cover: Meskie Shibru (in white), an EthiopianIsraeli actress and vocalist, plays the lead in “Lizzy, a retelling of “Lysistrata,” the anti-war, female-empowering satire by Aristophanes. See article on page 4.
departments President’s Message By Elizabeth Raider............................3 Book Reviews............................20
Photo by Eyal Landesman.
Around the Country....................28
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Mission Statement The mission of Na’amat USA is to enhance the status of women and children in Israel and the United States as part of a worldwide progressive Jewish women’s organization. Its purpose is to help Na’amat Israel provide educational and social services, including day care, vocational training, legal aid for women, absorption of new
immigrants, community centers, and centers for the prevention and treatment of domestic violence. Na’amat USA advocates on issues relating to women’s rights, the welfare of children, education and the United States-Israel relationship. Na’amat USA also helps strengthen Jewish and Zionist life in communities throughout the United States.
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or those of you who attended the national convention last year, you may remember that the national bylaws session was long and involved and had to be reconvened at the end of the afternoon in order to finish our discussion and voting. The outgoing national board had approved a restructure plan for Na’amat USA, and this included introducing many changes to the bylaws in addition to the recommendations that were sent in from all the areas, councils and clubs. With the agreement of the convention delegates, this plan became the basis for a new direction for Na’amat USA, including some innovative changes for the Membership and Fund-raising Departments, the streamlining of our methods of communication and utilizing current social media and public relations Web sites. I am pleased to tell you that Na’amat USA is making progress and seeing the benefits of this plan in several specific departments. Through more efficient use of rapidly changing technology, we are able to keep our members better informed about Na’amat and to reach more potential members who may be seeking an affiliation with an organization that actively supports hands-on services and programs in Israel. Probably the most tangible change affecting our members so far has been in the Fund-raising Department. We have introduced small Na’amat Israel projects that allow our clubs and councils to choose from a variety of specific educational ventures for fund-raising purposes.
Whether they choose to support a day care center by providing funds for equipment or a technological high school by providing computer components, or other options, the groups still receive their full quota credit for the amount allocated. This is a way to literally “put a face” on fund-raising for a special program or event as part of the assigned financial goal. The national board has had requests from our membership for this type of fund-raising for several years, and it is very gratifying to see that there has been a good response. More project options will be added for our new fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2011. You will also be seeing a new, updated Na’amat USA Web site! We have hired a professional with extensive experience in Web design and management, public relations and social media, who is assisting Na’amat USA to literally put a new face on our print and electronic communications. He will be combining material from our history and current programs to showcase the unique bond, innovative programs and social services that we share with Na’amat Israel as well as our advocacy for women, children and families in the United States. Advocacy here in the United States has always been a priority for Na’amat, and we now have a national advocacy chair who has issued several statements concerning women’s rights in regard to health and abortion. The most recent statement has been issued as a press release. We will also be using our updated Web site to promote our stances on other issues and to keep in contact with our legislators. Some of this will be a new approach, such as a Facebook page, links to related Web sites and a
Na’amat blog — which may encourage everyone who is computer savvy to spend even more time online. We will also be putting up more content from Na’amat Woman magazine on the Web site, so that people who are not members can see the exceptional publication we produce. The Membership Department is also looking for new and interesting ways to reach out to our communities to showcase Na’amat USA. The many new social media Web sites are producing an unbelievable change in the way we communicate. Our organization will be able to promote its activities, programs and news with a click on the keyboard, on both the local and national levels. A new addition to the bylaws in Article XIII is “Individual Membership.” Now, any interested women, 18 years or older, can become an individual member of Na’amat USA by paying membership dues — without joining a club. Individual membership is different from members-atlarge who generally are either women who have been members of clubs that are now dissolved or women who have been gifted with life membership. We already have members — women I have met — who have joined Na’amat because they found us on the Internet! With all the innovations and fresh approaches, the basic idealism and philosophy of Na’amat remain the same, and they will be reflected in all our membership and fundraising activities. Our efforts are directed to the same goal — supporting Na’amat Israel. The packaging may be different, but the message remains constant: We nurture dignity and independence through education and social services, helping to make possible a future full of hope and continued on page 30 SUMMER 2011
Making Their Mark in
A small but growing number of Ethiopian Israelis are enriching the performing arts with their traditions and talents. by JUDITH SUDILOVSKY
hen Abate Berihun arrived in Israel from Addis Ababa in 1999, it took him six months to convince people in the absorption center where he was living that he was really an accomplished jazz musician who had played the saxophone in a well-known quartet in Ethiopia and Europe. “It was very difficult for them to understand and seemed very strange because here they were, with so many of the Ethiopian immigrants not even knowing what an airplane or refrigerator or car was — and suddenly there was someone telling them that he plays a Western instrument. I can understand their confusion,” says Berihun, 42, who is now working on his second music CD, scheduled for release in the next few months. His first, “Ras Deshen,” which he produced with Israeli pianist Yitzhak Yedid in 2004, mixes traditional Ethiopian music with jazz. It received favorable reviews and was rated one of the two best Israeli jazz albums of that year. Twenty-seven years after the first large wave of Ethiopian Jewish immigration began, Berihun is today among a small group of Ethiopian immigrants who are making their mark on
Ethiopians have roots reaching back 2,000 years. Ethiopian music is special. I want to bring that culture to people’s attention. White Israelis don’t know about it.
House in Jerusalem, a popular venue that promotes the arts for all heritages and traditions of the city. — Abate Berihun “He has really broken in and is working in cooperation with [other Israeli] musicians.” Most of the Ethiopian immigration to Israel took place in two airlifts: the first at the end of 1984 when Operation Moses brought some 8,000 Ethiopian Jews over the course of three months; and the second, which brought another 14,325 Ethiopian Je ws in ss Barak Wei the spectacular 36-hour Operation Solomon in May 1991. According to the latest figures Israeli society in the world of the performing arts, adding available from the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, at the end of 2008, there their traditions to the Israeli mosaic. Considered the doyen for many were 121,000 Ethiopian Jews living in young Ethiopian-Israeli performers in- Israel, 32 percent of whom are Israeli cluding actors, dancers and musicians, born. While many of the older genBerihun is “very unique,” says Effie Benaya, director of the Confederation eration who arrived in Israel as adults
I think one of the reasons I have made a name for myself is that I am not trying to be someone else. I am very connected to my roots and I go with who I am.
— Meskie Shibru
Courtesy, Nephesh Theater
Humor is a very powerful tool. You can make some very strong statements, but if they are done with humor, then it feels more like a caress. —Yossi Vassa
is slated to perform in New York City’s Central Park. After a difficult four-year period of financial instability, when he needed to work full time outside the music world, Berihun is getting back into the music world full force. He is also dedicating himself to tutoring young Ethiopian musicians in his small, rented music Benny Voodoo
struggled with adjusting to a new society, generally remaining in low-paying jobs, many of the younger generation — both those who arrived as youngsters and those who were born here — have begun to integrate into Israeli society, joining the army and studying at universities. Although the number of Ethiopian students in higher-level education is lower proportionally than those of other sectors of society, it has been steadily increasing with the help of various programs meant to assist Ethiopian students achieve academic excellence. Despite their low representation in the arts — it is estimated that only about one percent of the Ethiopian-Israeli population has become involved in the performing arts — these performers are determined to use this medium as another way of not only bringing their tradition and culture into the Israeli limelight, but also as a way of expressing their own individual artistic talents. For Berihun, the problem of convincing people he was telling the truth about his accomplishments was compounded by the fact that he had left his saxophone with the other members of the quartet in Ethiopia, since they had bought all the instruments together as a group in a place where they were hard
to come by. He had never imagined it would be so difficult for him to get another saxophone in Israel, he says. His family had already immigrated to Israel several years before, and he had stayed behind to be with his father and continue with his music. When his father died, Berihun decided it was time to join the rest of the family in Israel. It wasn’t until well-known Israeli singer Ariel Zilber came to the absorption center with his wife, and Berihun was able to speak to the couple, that he was taken seriously. Zilber quickly recognized Berihun’s unique talents. Zilber recommended that Berihun — who had studied music only as a member of the Ethiopian army band — become a student at the prestigious Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in Ramat Hasharon. While studying there, he met music producer and pianist Yedid. A collaboration with the talented young musician led to other opportunities. Since then, Berihun has gone on to compose music for various plays with Ethiopian themes and a movie, and he regularly performs in music festivals both in Israel and abroad. Last year, he received first prize at a music festival in Afula; at the end of June, he
We want to be very Israeli — we want to be a part of the gang and be invited to the party, but they don’t always invite you to come.
— Shmuel Beru
I want to keep the Ethiopian tradition, but we have to make it modern. There is a lightness and strength in the movements. There is nothing else like that in Israeli modern dance.
— Tzvika Iskias
studio near the Tel Aviv bus station, exposing them to their own musicial traditions, some for the first time. “Young Ethiopians are interested in learning about Ethiopian music because they don’t know it,” he observes. “Instead, they have been identifying with African-American hip hop music. Now I am teaching them about their own strong Ethiopian music.” Berihun, who also does vocals, describes his music as a fusion of Ethiopian, African, jazz, groove and Eastern music mixed in with some Hebrew lyrics. Though he plays all saxophones, he prefers the tenor and soprano. He is now working on a project recording sacred Ethiopian prayers sung by the community’s religious leaders, the kessim, and intertwining it with his own original compositions. “It was hard — they didn’t want to do it,” he concedes. But he was able to convince the kessim the importance of the project. He now has recordings of the prayers, which he is in the process of producing into musical tracks with his own compositions. “We have roots reaching back 2,000 years. Our music has a special [cadence], a special tune to them,” he says. “Now I want to bring that culture 6
[to people’s attention]. Ethiopian music is special. White Israelis don’t know about it. I want to erase the idea [that we don’t have our own rich culture].” Still, Confederation House director Benaya notes that the integration of Ethiopian actors is just at its inception. Among other ensembles and festivals it sponsors, the Confederation House has provided a home for the Hullegeb Ethiopian Theater Ensemble for the past five years. Under the direction of Moshe Malka, the group produces original theater pieces combining the talent of Ethiopian actors with other Israeli actors along with the innovative trends of modern Israeli fringe theater. Most of the productions deal with Ethiopian traditions, the Ethiopians’ connection to Israel and the difficulties the Ethiopian-Israeli population has encountered since making aliyah. “We want to extend the theater to Israeli [themes], but we need to start with [Ethiopian] stories,” says Benaya. “No aliyah has had to deal with what they did. Theirs is a real exodus from Egypt…and it is right to start with their journey and tradition and slowly connect to the place where they live now. It is a long process.” In December, the Confederation
House sponsored a week-long Ethiopian-Israeli Arts Festival, giving a stage to musicians, dancers and actors from the Ethiopian-Israeli community for the first time in one shared location. The response from the native Israeli population was very positive, says Benaya, but openness to learn about Ethiopian culture will only be created slowly. “There isn’t a lot of exposure to what Ethiopians are doing [in the performing art world], but there is an openness and curiosity to see it.” For many young Ethiopian-Israeli performers, following their chosen path has meant not only facing parental pressure to choose a more “serious” profession, but also battling stereotypes of Ethiopians as submissive and underprivileged people who need to be led into the modern world. For some, like comedian/film director Shmuel Beru, 35, and dancer Tzvika Iskias, 28, discovering their love for the performance world was a lifeline out of a troubled youth of boarding schools and misbehavior. “I was a confused guy, and then I decided that if I am confused, I should be an actor, where you can be whoever you want,” says Beru, who walked across the Sudanese desert as an eight-
When young Ethiopian girls stop me on the street, it is always very emotional for me and always ends with a tear and a hug. — Ayala Ingedashet
plore the Ethiopian-Israeli experience. It tells the story of the struggles of an Ethiopian family as they deal with the social and cultural gaps they encounter in their new country. The movie was filmed with an all-Ethiopian cast and a majority Ethiopian crew. Berihun, who Beru greatly admires, composed the music for the film and has a cameo part. “In my movie I wanted to show the place where I come from,” explains Beru, who has been called “Israel’s first Ethiopian film director.” He continues: “Most of the time, the only way people see this is when white journalists report on the community, without any emotional connection, and then they go on to the next story. In the movie I wanted to show a lot more.” Having done some stints on Israeli television as well as performing in the Habimah National Theater productions of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Julius Caesar” and “The Word of the Ethiopian,” Beru decided he wanted to tell the story of the Ethiopian experience. “It was the most natural thing for me to deal with my story first,” he says. “I can’t deal with the Holocaust before I deal with our Holocaust first.” It is estimated that some 4,000 Ethiopian Jews died in their efforts to reach Sudan to come to Israel. Many people were also abused and robbed by smugglers and raiders during their desert trek. “I think the majority of the Israeli population is not so interested in the real situation of the Ethiopian community,” says Beru. “People don’t like their assump-
Courtesy, Mazal Damoza
year-old with his family to immigrate in Operation Moses. He grew up in Safed and served as an actor in the IDF’s entertainment corps. “If you are an actor and don’t have work, you have a great excuse: There isn’t a lot of work,” jokes Beru, flashing his warm smile as he sips tea in a Jerusalem café just before a scheduled television interview. He discovered acting by chance when a friend convinced him to study at Haifa University because “there were a lot of beautiful girls,” he says. “There were beautiful girls there, but along the way I also learned.” He was lucky, he says, to have “amazing” parents who have their own sense of humor. Still, Beru continues, he doesn’t feel completely accepted into the Israeli acting world where many of the roles for Ethiopians are usually typecast, and aspiring Ethiopian-Israeli actors are normally only cast in roles that specifically call for an Ethiopian. “There aren’t very good roles and they are very limited. So you have to make work for yourself. That’s why I became a comedian,” says the young director, whose 2008 movie “Zrubavel” was the first full-length Israeli movie to ex-
As a minority, it is easy for people to put us into a corner and not see any importance in what we are saying and/or have to offer. But the biggest thing I have to offer Israel is my culture.
— Mazal Damoza
tions [about others] to be challenged. So the ultra-Orthodox are viewed as parasites, Arabs as terrorists, Ethiopians as poor, and Ashkenazi as rich.” He says the kind of attitudes toward the Mizrahi Jews who were not welcome and not taken seriously is being repeated with Ethiopians. “They feel sorry for you, and treat you like you are ‘cute’ and need to be helped. I don’t feel any change in the attitude yet, but it will come.” But the change should not come through “integration,” he maintains, which has connotations of losing bits of yourself to become a part of the larger whole. He would rather it be considered a “combination” or “partnership” of traditions and mores. “I contribute what I can and you contribute what you can.” His generation, the one in between those who came to Israel as adults and those born in Israel, have the most adjustments to make, he points out. “We are hit by all sides. The older people know it’s another culture, but it doesn’t continued on page 23 SUMMER 2011
Traveling Green A grassroots phenomenon, eco-tourism is thriving all over Israel. by MICHELE CHABIN
he Abraham Hostel, a clean but simple place, is the perfect stop for backpackers seeking affordable accommodations in downtown Jerusalem. Mitzpe Hayamim, a luxurious spa overlooking the Sea of Galilee, is for travelers who want to be pampered in breathtaking surroundings. On the surface, the two establishments seem to have virtually nothing in common. But a closer look reveals that both are committed to green practices that encourage staffers and guests to consciously protect the environment. The hostel, which opened last November, has started modestly. It installed a composter on the roof and makes a point of placing every glass and plastic bottle emptied by its guests into the city’s recycling
, Mitzpe Courtesy
bins, despite the fact that there are none in the immediate vicinity. Its fresh fruits and vegetables come from the nearby Mahane Yehuda shuk, reducing its carbon footprint — the emission of greenhouse gases. The farther food has to be transported, the larger its carbon footprint. Mitzpe Hayamim minimizes its footprint by growing most of the fruits and vegetables it uses in its meals on 28 acres of stunning hillside gardens and an organic farm surrounding the spa. The farm’s own cows and sheep produce rich milk, which is then made into a wide range of cheeses. The manure produced by the spa’s livestock is made into fertilizer. An entirely grassroots phenomenon, Israeli eco-tourism is thriving, despite the fact that this niche industry isn’t organized in any systematic way and receives no special funding from the Israeli government. Recently, though, the Ministry of Tourism has begun to
consider ways to market the thousands of ecologically friendly enterprises that exist all over the country. “There has never been a government policy to encourage eco-tourism, but we now have a committee that is starting to look at the matter from a marketing perspective,” said Gidon Snir, deputy director for strategy at the Ministry of Tourism. In the process, Snir pointed out, “we’ve discovered tens of projects, even in large cities, and it’s very exciting.” Snir’s hope is that Israel will start attracting the same kinds of ecologically conscious tourists who seek out green locations and lodgings in other parts of the world. Michal Wimmer-Luria, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Eco & Sustainable Tourism Israel (www.ecotourism -israel.com), says that ecologically geared tourist attractions and accommodations have existed here for decades, just under most people’s radar. “Eco-tourism in Israel is generally a bottom-up, grassroots phenomenon,” Wimmer-Luria noted, “and a lot of these businesses weren’t expressly developed as such. People simply worked according to their ideals, and they just grew in the right way. In certain terrains and conditions, it couldn’t be otherwise.” Under the criteria set by Wimmer-Luria’s organization, genuine eco-
Enjoying the luxuries of Mitzpe Hayamim, a hotel, spa and organic farm.
tourism initiatives are committed to strengthening the local tourism industry, whether in the most remote part of the Negev desert or central Tel Aviv; maximizing conservation efforts; improving the community’s sense of well being and self-sufficiency; and enriching the experience of tourists. Another environmentalist defined eco-tourism as “showing respect for the communities at the site. That includes whoever lives there — people, animals, plants — as well as those who will be coming in the future.” Based on these principles, it’s possible to find eco-tourism projects just about anywhere in Israel. Some, like the hugely popular citywide bicycle paths recently constructed in Tel Aviv (with numerous European-style bike rental stations), were initiated by the government. But most are homegrown initiatives created by hard-working individuals. While many travelers enjoy finding places on their own, there are also a growing number of Israeli tour operators that offer a wide and sometimes eclectic range of eco-tours in rural and urban settings — for a fee. Eco and Sustainable Tourism Israel’s Web site is a good starting point for both do-ityourself vacationers and travelers who want to steer their guide to specific locations. Divided by region, the site offers a Background: Agamon Hula Park in the Galilee is an oasis of calm and one of the best places in the world to go bird watching. Michele Chabin
sampling of national parks, eco-projects such as organic wineries and bee or goat farms, and accommodations from luxurious to fairly primitive. Some, like the beautiful Coral Beach Nature Reserve in Eilat, a paradise for snorkelers, are in the heart of major tourist sites, while others, especially in remote parts of the desert, can be reached only by car or camel. For off-the-beaten path adventure, nothing beats the Negev desert, which is full of hidden natural treasures. The best time to visit is spring, when wildflowers fed by the winter rains carpet every hill and valley. Some time ago, I explored the Negev with Ofer Hartuv, an experienced desert guide and owner of Beerotayim (www.beerotayim.co.il), a desert tour company and eco-tourism retreat in the western Negev highland. Hartuv, a friendly man with leathery skin, picked me up from the southern city of Beersheva in a rugged vehicle and, without fanfare, draped a white Arab-style scarf around my head to protect me from the searing sun. On our way further south, we passed Bedouin encampments and hills bursting with wildflowers. “Our desert is a living desert, with animal and plant life,” Hartuv said, as he veered onto a narrow path that led to Wadi Levan, a dry riverbed strewn with rocks and boulders. Though rain is scarce, Hartuv explained that wildlife thrives here thanks to the dew that accumulates 200 mornings a year. Fireengine red poppies abound, as do
Volunteers who work five hours a day at the Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem get free accommodations. One of their jobs is composting kitchen scraps.
wild lavender and white irises, Atlantic pistachio and almond trees, Sumac and Acacia. Our visit to the wadi — which should only be done with an experienced guide due to the treacherous driving conditions — was interspersed with several stops to learn about the use of various plants and to simply enjoy the perfect quiet. At one stop, Hartuv snipped off a piece of achiellea (yarrow), used to calm stomach aches and, in ancient times, to heal wounds. He brewed tea with a piece of wild chamomile. Before making our way to a tranquil reservoir, we spotted a family of gazelles gazing down from above. From there we followed the Israel-Egypt border, and soldiers on both sides returned our greetings. Soon we arrived in Beerotayim, an isolated retreat that offers basic huts with beds, fresh kosher desert food in a Bedouin tent and nightly campfires. Toilets and showers are clean and communal; hammocks abound. The retreat was built close to two ancient wells that give the place its name: Be’er (Well) Moshe and Be’er Aharon, located at the center of a large grove of tamarisks. Beerotayim is off the grid, so there are no electric poles to mar the land-
One environmentalist defined eco-tourism as “showing respect for the communities at the site. That includes whoever lives there — people, animals, plants — as well as those who will be coming in the future.”
scape, where a riot of color, courtesy of the most beautiful accumulation of wildflowers I have ever seen, grew in all directions. Beerotayim’s lights are solar powered, there are kerosene heaters in abundance, and guests walk around with lanterns after dark. Although Hartuv and other guides offer some jeep trips into the wadis, where tires do little damage to the riverbeds, the main mode of transport is by mule or camel. The tours — to places few humans in modern times have seen — combine nature exploration, history, Bible studies and archaeology. Tours range from three hours to several days, the latter spent sleeping outdoors. A different kind of nature retreat awaits visitors at Hemdatya, an upscale eco-farm with guesthouses in the quaint village of Segara in the verdant lower Galilee. During a Ministry of Tourism tour of some of the best eco-tourism sites in the north, Hemdatya’s young owners, Atalia and Eli Trua, explained how they employed green building methods when renovating their century-old farm buildings. “Our goal is to limit our footprint as much as we can,” said Atalia, as she served homemade breads and cheeses on the flowering terrace outside the dining room. Hemdatya is so eco-friendly that it offers composting toilets (the waste
is turned into compost). Guests are also welcome to help harvest herbs and whatever else is growing at the time in the organic orchard, vineyard and vegetable garden. The lovely guesthouses have Jacuzzis, and there is a communal rock-hewn splash pool for hot days. One of the highlights of our trip to the Galilee was a visit to the Agamon Hula Park, an oasis of calm and beauty, and one of the best places in the world to go bird watching. Like the mountains around Eilat in the south, the Hula is a place for migrating birds to rest and regroup. Every spring an estimated 500,000 birds (including storks, pelicans, raptors, cranes) sojourn in Israel on their way from Africa, their winter home, to Europe. They make the return trip in the autumn. While the majority of the 540 species that can be spotted in Israel eventually fly elsewhere, many make their home here year round. The most visited ecological tourism site in Israel, the park, which is maintained by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), includes marshes and shallowwater bodies surrounded by cultivated fields. During the tour, which included the sighting of thousands of cranes, a staffer explained that the park is “an anchor tourism site” that encourages tourists to stay overnight in one of the area’s many guesthouses. At the Hula Valley Birding Center, managed by the Society for the Protection of Nature, visitors can explore by foot or, better still, rent a bike (including a model with four wheels) or a six-seater golf cart.
GoEco volunteers help build an eco-village in the Arava Desert. Courtesy, GoEco
Every year, this birding center accepts a small number of volunteers at the park, provided they have expertise in identifying birds and know how to place tracking rings around the birds’ legs, a process called “banding.” Eco-travelers without such expertise but who want to actively contribute to Israel’s environmental health in other ways can volunteer in a wide variety of places. At any one time, the Hava & Adam Eco-Educational Center and Farm benefits from the hard work of about 10 young foreign volunteers who serve alongside 18- to 20-year-old Israelis performing their National Service. Through Eco-Israel/MASA Israel, a joint project of the Jewish Agency and the government of Israel, Diaspora Jews aged 18 to 30 spend five months working and living at the center, which is located in Modi’in, between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. When not learning Hebrew and traveling around Israel, the participants help manage the cooperative organic farm and seed bank. The Young Judaea youth movement also runs a program at the center. Physically fit volunteers of varying ages and experience might want to contact GoEco (www.goeco.org), which partners with existing environmental and humanitarian projects. For a fee plus airfare, visitors aged 18 to 40 can volunteer for a few weeks at the Yotvata Nature Preserve about a half hour’s drive from Eilat. Responsibilities include feeding animals and cleaning habitats, maintenance, observations and data collection. A second GoEco program asks volunteers to help preserve Eilat’s fragile coral reefs in the Red Sea, while a third enables visitors — including families with young children — to help build an eco-village in the Arava Desert. Accommodations for the latter program (stints range from a few days to eight
Courtesy, Hava & Adam
Left: Beerotayim, a beautiful desert retreat, offers guest huts in all sizes. Background: Harvesting crops at Hava & Adam ecological farm.
weeks) are insulated straw-bale and mud huts at Tzukim, an hour-and-half drive from Eilat. GoEco is also seeking volunteer camp counselors for a multicultural Druze, Christian and Muslim eco-summer camp in northern Israel. Jonathan Gilben, GoEco’s co-founder, got the idea to start such a program a few years ago, after he enrolled in a Mexican volunteer program to protect sea turtles. “The experience was so positive and meaningful, I decided to open a similar organization in Israel,” he said. “Tourism,” Gilben explained, “is itself a very destructive industry for the environment and it impacts communities and cultures. Our goal is to minimize the impact and to help whenever possible.” Gilben said GoEco programs consciously try to minimize waste and carbon emissions and to promote conservation efforts. “This can be organic farming, forest conservation or building structures that blend in with the environment.” GoEco just started partnering with the Abraham Hostel, a funky new hostel just a few minutes’ walk from the Mahane Yehuda market. Volunteers commit to working five hours per day and in return receive comfortable, centrally located lodgings (three to a room and coed). The hostel also offers private rooms and use of a huge, sunny common room with a (non-kosher) communal kitchen and dining area, a pool table and several brightly-colored seating areas. “I’ve toured Israel four times, but I wanted to experience really living here,” said Cynthia Pajaud, a 44-year-old Angelino, during the second week of her seven-week stay at the hostel. We work five hours every morning and have the rest of the day to explore.” Volunteers start working in the kitchen at 6:15 in the morning, accompany guests to the Old City, recycle bottles and paper, and spend time com-
posting organic scraps from mealtimes. “We’re still very new and haven’t started all of our environmental products,” explained Sophia Cohen, the hostel’s volunteer coordinator. “Our goal is to create a green roof to grow organic things, but that will take some time.” Cohen acknowledged that “some of the volunteers anticipated doing more environmental work than is currently available,” but none of the volunteers gathered in the common room had anything but good things to say about the program. “It’s been a great experience,” said Ali Grange, a volunteer from England, a short time later, as he hoisted a black trash can full of scraps into the hostel’s compost bin. Travelers looking for a half- or full-day encounter with Israeli environmental issues can check out Jewish Eco Seminars, which offers a range of tours in both urban areas and rural settings. One Jewish Eco Seminars tour takes visitors to one of the 10 Jerusalem elementary schools where students grow their own food. Visitors work alongside the elementary or middleschool kids as they plant and harvest, and briefly study Jewish sources that deal with agriculture. The company’s full-day tour, “An Ecological Lens on Modern Israel,” combines a scenic hike through Ein Sataf, less than a half hour’s drive from Jerusalem with experiential and text learning. In addition to giving visitors the opportunity to touch, smell and occasionally taste along the trail, the tour underscores just how limited and vulnerable Israel’s water sources really are, and it presents examples of green technology to fight the problem. Another tour takes visitors to an organic farm where they learn about the emergence of organic farming techniques in the past 15 years and how Jewish teachings and values are continued on page 25 SUMMER 2011
Keeping Judaism Alive in
Venice by JUDITH A. SOKOLOFF
The Jews of Venice are at a crossroads. Can they succeed in strengthening Jewish life — or will the Ghetto remain just a famous site of memory? Will Jewish identity there depend on what no longer exists — or can it be nurtured by what does? A writer discovers a wealth of diverse and fascinating personalities while exploring the Ghetto.
was sitting with Rabbi Elia Richetti in the information office of the Jewish Community of Venice (JCV), located in the Ghetto. The then chief rabbi of Venice told me a story: A tour guide is taking a group through Venice’s Jewish Ghetto and remarks that there are no Jews left there. But then a man sticks his head out of an apartment window above and says, “Don’t trust him, I’m here!” Discovering the Jewish Ghetto is like finding an old treasure trying to preserve its identity and emerge stronger in the modern world — a relic struggling for relevance. The majority of the city’s 450 Jews do not live there, but the Ghetto is the heart of the Jewish Venetian community, where centuries of Jewish tradition merge with modern day life. This is the first place in Europe where
Jews were segregated, beginning in 1516, until Napoleon arrived in 1797 and tore down the gates. This is the place where five ethnic groups of Jews arrived in different waves of immigration, enjoying its golden age in the 1600s when Jewish commerce and scholarship flourished. This is where a vibrant Jewish cultural center grew, where the first Talmud was printed. The Ghetto today is where the official Jewish Community of Venice strives to attract more visitors with its museum and synagogues; where ChabadLubavitch has settled in its usual enthusiastic fashion, offering worship services and a free Friday night dinner at its restaurant; where a few Jewish shopkeepers entice tourists with art works and ritual objects; where some Israelis have come to work. Here you can visit four of the
five centuries-old synagogues; eat kosher food; stop for a chat at the community’s information center; view the Holocaust memorial created by Lithuanian sculptor Arvit Blatas — all in the area of a large campo (square). This where I spent many days during a month-long visit to Venice last summer. There are still Jews living in the Ghetto — but only about 30. More important, the Jews of Venice are making an effort to keep Judaism alive in their city, to attract more Jews to visit, study and even to live. I saw evidence of their efforts, as I roamed the Ghetto, talking to residents, business people and visitors and to Jews living in other parts of the city. The task is difficult, but there is hope and a feeling of cautious optimism as the Ghetto approaches its 500th anni-
versary in 2016. The Jewish presence in Venice is actually even older than in the Ghetto. Many Jewish merchants and moneylenders visited and worked in the city beginning in the 10th century but didn’t really settle until the 13th century. Since the 1500s, that presence has been continuous. “We don’t want Venice to become another Pitigliano,” said Shaul Bassi, whose family has lived in Venice for generations. He was referring to the almost zero Jewish presence in the lovely town of Pitigliano, which once had a flourishing Jewish community. A professor at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Shaul is also the director of the Venice Center for International Jewish Studies, which promotes and facilitates academic study, research and learning in Jewish studies and the enhancement of Jewish life and culture in the Ghetto. Shaul has been developing a program in which Jews from all over the world can engage in Jewish life and studies in Venice. “We need to interact,” he emphasized. This past April, for example, the center brought three prominent Jewish authors to Venice. Its motto is: “Live, learn and create in Jewish Venice.” The decline in the Jewish population, he noted, is due to both general difficulties in Venice, such as the lack of jobs and housing, and also Jewish
factors, such as intermarriage and the lack of an alternative to an Orthodox community. Shaul fit me into his busy schedule, as he was off to Sweden the next day to participate in Paideia’s Project Incubator, an intensive two-week boot camp for people involved in innovative projects dedicated to advancing European Jewish culture. In recent years, the official Jewish community has been opening itself more to tourists. The problem, according to Shaul, is that they have tended to see tourists more as a problem than as an opportunity. The cultural reclaiming of the Ghetto began in the late 1970s with a campaign, he said, that ironically began with the slogan, “Let’s revive the Jewish cemetery.” The community has a legacy of keeping Judaism private, so how do you revive a community that is used to being quiet, he questioned. Jewish life has been created inward for historical and architectural reasons, but also for security reasons, he explained. When Chabad started lighting its giant menorah in the Ghetto, people were shocked, said Shaul. “It was like having your teenage daughter walk naked in the street.” Perhaps motivated by Chabad’s presence, which began in 1986, the JCV opened an office on the street where people can get information about the Ghetto, Shabbat services and Venetian Jewish life. I was welcomed by Nechama Dina Minkowitz, who was standing outside the office, beckoning visitors
Photos by Judith A. Sokoloff
Gaia Rava, owner of Magic Stone Travel Service, is happy to arrange a wedding, bar mitzvah or other celebrations.
with her warmth and wealth of information. “We don’t want the Ghetto to become another museum. We can do more to make Jewish life thrive here,” she said, echoing Shaul. Born in Israel, Nechama Dina later lived in the United States. When she married an Italian, she moved to Venice where her husband worked at Balthazar, a kosher restaurant that was operating when I visited but has since closed. The restaurant is attached to a 16-room hotel (both under new ownership), which makes it possible for visiting Jews to do candle lighting, go to the mikvah and attend services, all within the Ghetto. Some 200,000 Jews visit Venice every year, according to Nechama Dina, and 8,000 eat kosher. The community wants to increase their awareness, she said, “preservation through awareness.” And, she pointed to a local map, “most of the city has a natural eruv, because of the walls.” Looking at the demographics of the community, Nechama Dina said, the age range is mostly 45 to 90. There are a handful of young singles, who have to look to Milan and Rome for Jewish activities. The “intermarriage guilt is not as heavy as it is in the United States,” she noted, though you are cut off in some ways if you intermarry: You can’t be called to the Torah. What is it like to be a Jewish woman here? I asked, the lives of Jewish women being my constant area of interest. “The women — they do a lot of shlepping!” she said. “When you have a kosher home, you think differently. Eating out
Built in 1531-1532 on the top floor, the Canton Synagogue is recognizable from the outside only by its wooden cupola.
Rabbi Elia Richetti’s ancestors left Spain in 1492 and came to Venice.
Women in the community have a long history of being intellectuals and professionals — not typical housewives but professors, psychologists, teachers, librarians. is limited. The community orders kosher food from Milan once a month — and we aren’t charged for shipping. “There is a beautiful culture that has survived and thrived for hundreds of years; it’s very intellectual,” continued Nechama Dina. “Women in the community have a long history of being intellectuals and professionals — not typical housewives but professors, psychologists, teachers, librarians.” I think back to something Shaul had mentioned a few days before, about the Venetian Jewish women: They lead a “schizophrenic” life, where “in their work they are progressives, but in the Jewish community they play traditional roles. They don’t even know about things like women reading from the Torah.” A bit of history: According to Micaela Procaccia, historian and archivist at Italy’s National Archives, Italian Jewish women “have always been rather independent compared to the Christian women of their time” (from “Jewish Women 2000: Conference Papers from the Hadassah Research Institute on Jewish Women International Scholarly Exchanges 1997-1998.” During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Italian Jewish women often acted as financial agents for their husbands, had access to monetary funds and worked in a variety of financial roles — as merchants, moneylenders, brokers, experts in precious metals and partners in stores. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Jewish women in Rome were taught to read Hebrew prayers and some learned to read the Bible. There were Jewish women scribes in the 14th century and a woman who led other women in prayer. In medieval times, there were feisty women in the Venice Ghetto who put on tefillin and sat with the men in shul. In Modena, during the Renaissance, when the Torah was taken out of the ark, women would loudly curse men 14
and ask for vengeance against those who had slighted them (according to historian Howard Adelman). The bat mitzvah ceremony began to be celebrated in the middle of the 19th century. The status of women varied from city to city and changed with the times. During the first 15 years of the 20th century, the position of Jewish women was a subject of fierce debate, according to Procaccia, as Jewish men tried to hold back the women, restricting them to the roles of wife and mother. Nechama Dina reeled off some facts about today’s community. The JCV holds the rights to the five synagogues, some buildings, the old-age home and museum. There’s a Talmud Torah with about 20 children. The community center has kosher kitchens, a lecture hall for groups that visit and a playground. It sponsors activities ranging from a barbeque for Lag B’Omer to women’s belly dancing classes. They do a girl-naming ceremony in the synagogue when a baby is one month old (a tradition since the 18th century) and a community havdalah service. “We’re trying to get more people involved than in the past,” she emphasized. The community is also trying to bring Jews from other places in Italy and from Europe and Israel to live in the
Gerd Stern, a visitor from the United States, puts on tefillin at Chabad’s visitors center.
Ghetto. There is now a musician from Israel, with his wife, a singer from Australia. Another woman, with two children and a husband in the gold jewelry business, is from Milan. But in general, reflecting the general problem in the city, jobs are scarce and people leave. And so, too, will this cheerleader for the Venice Jewish community. Nechama Dina is moving on — to Brooklyn, New York, where she and her husband can be part of a larger Orthodox community. Rabbi Richetti has an interesting history, and I am always fascinated by Jews who can trace their ancestry back hundreds of years. He told me that his forebears left Spain in 1492. The family lived in Venice until the 1730s, then split into two branches: One stayed in Venice (many were physicians; one founded the old-age home); his branch went to Galitzia and later to Trieste, and he was born in Milan. He studied in Jerusalem, served as rabbi in Israel, Milan and TriShachar Banin oversees a number of Chabad’s projects in the Ghetto. Venice’s only kosher hotel can be seen in the background.
The cultural reclaiming of the Ghetto began in the late 1970s with a campaign that ironically began with the slogan, “Let’s revive the Jewish cemetery.” este and came to Venice nine years ago. To make changes in the community, you have to change minds, he explained. Most Jews in Italy are not religious, he continued, but they want their synagogues to be strictly religious. People want to make their synagogues more attractive, but they don’t want women cantors or mixed seating. This past February, Rabbi Richetti retired, and Rabbi Gili Benyamin, born in Israel of Yemenite descent, has taken over. In a recent e-mail, Rabbi Benyamin shared his thoughts on strengthening the Jewish community: “My main goal in Venice is to integrate the youth and attract them to attend religious activities. We need to strengthen their Jewish identity and save them from intermarriage. So my greatest challenge is to bring them back to their roots, source and origin, so they will be proud of their Judaism.” Sounds familiar! In response to my questions about whether he envisions any change in the role of women, Rabbi Benyamin wrote: “Venetian Jewish women are strong and smart — and women are at the heart of everything in Judaism. The women of our community are very active and are leading many activities. They are the very ambassadors at the forefront of
our community and our Jewish Italian identity.” He added that he’ll soon start a Talmud class for women, in addition to the one he recently began for men. Wanting to talk to some of the newcomers, I visited the shop/art gallery of Israeli artist Michal Meron. She and her husband, Elon Baker, moved to the Ghetto seven years ago, where they own two galleries. One shows Israeli artists; the other exhibits Michal’s paintings and is where she works and lives. Elon, a publisher, pointed out that his wife’s best work — and it surely is beautiful — is her lively illustrated Torah scroll, filled with delightful folk art figures. He tried to sell me on a fundraising project for Na’amat USA: Buy her Torah and then get people to pay money to have their names inscribed in various places throughout the scroll. We talked about her work. Though she is not religious, calling herself “Yom Kippur Judein” (born in Israel, she grew up in Austria), her inspiration for both her naïve paintings and her abstract
work comes from the Torah and Jewish history and events. “I love my roots,” she said enthusiastically and would like to make a “historic show about the life of Jews.” The shop is filled with her colorful paintings of scenes from Jewish life in Italy and elsewhere, of Jewish holidays, synagogues, ketubbot. (She also has a gallery in Old Jaffa.) Her Meron Haggadah is an exuberant work. One of the subjects of her paintings, I was happy to discover, is Sara Coppio Sullam (1594-1641), a Venetian Jewish poet and intellectual who I have been doing some research on. I asked about the community’s relationship with Israel. “It’s very positive,” Michal said, adding that it celebrates Yom Ha’atzmaut and has been very supportive of the plight of Gilad Shalit. The new president of the JCV wants the Ghetto to become “more Israelified,” she noted, to have more businesses owned by Israelis. Michal’s youngest son, Nevo, is studying shoe design in Italy. Sitting at a worktable, he was drawing attrac-
Doriana Curiel is the only woman in Venice making glass objects. They are sold in her brother Davide’s shop across the campo.
Artist Michal Meron’s gallery brings a touch of Israel as well as her beautiful paintings to the Venice Ghetto.
Most Jews in Italy are not religious, but they want their synagogues to be strictly religious.
tive eggplant- (or perhaps radicchio-) colored women’s shoes. He chimed in when the discussion turned to whether Israelis really want peace. Michal pointed out that after World War II, there was nothing in the Ghetto, it was forgotten. But when the Jewish Museum opened, there was a “new Jewish dynamic.” Then came Chabad, “another dynamic.” Michal and her husband add much to the Jewish flavor of the Ghetto, but they, too, would like to return to Israel some day. Our chat was interrupted by a deluge of Jewish tourists from Spain, England, the United States and Canada. Everyone was buying. You can purchase an original painting or good reproductions in various sizes and on different types of paper. A teenager from Manchester, England, argued with his mother. He wanted her to pay for a print he liked. She told him to use his bar mitzvah money! I left while business was good, but not before getting a charming picture of a Shabbat celebration in Italy. My last stop: the kosher bakery for some raisin kugel. My day was complete. Nechama Dina Minkowitz warmly welcomes tourists outside an office of the Jewish Community of Venice.
nother afternoon in the Ghetto. David’s Shop sparkles. The 27year-old store is filled with wonderful Murano glass items — jewelry, Jewish ritual objects and souvenirs — at good prices. Jewish owner Davide Curiel told me that his family has lived in Venice since 1492. His sister, Doriana, makes the work on display and is the only woman creating glass objects in Venice. She works across the campo and lives in the apartment where Davide was born (in 1959), in a building now filled with Jews. I headed across the square and entered her slightly ajar door. Doriana was placing the glass in her kiln but was glad to have a visitor and showed me her newest work — lovely mosaic and murrhine glass mezuzot. A bit farther down the street, I stopped at Magic Stone Travel Service. I’d been told the owner is a Jewish woman. Gaia Rava, it turned out, was born in Venice. Her family goes back six generations there, and she thinks before that from Spain. “We are Sephardic.” Gaia has been involved in the travel business for 20 years, and she can arrange a wedding for you in the Ghetto, or a bar mitzvah or other celebrations. For 12 years, she’s been organizing the annual meetings of the American Joint Distribution Committee, though Jewish travel groups are not her main business. She proudly held up
At Chabad’s Gam Gam restaurant, one can eat outdoors and watch the boats on one of Venice’s many canals.
her cat, Moon, so he could be included in a photo. I headed off to a pre-arranged meeting on a bench in the campo with Rita Dayan, the wife of the assistant rabbi. No, she is not related to Moshe Dayan. She and her husband Avraham have been living in the Ghetto for six years. The president of the JCV offered her husband the job of assistant rabbi, and they came, never having seen Venice. Rita is originally from Alexandria, Egypt, and her husband from Israel; for about a year and a half, he was the chief rabbi of Egypt. He still travels there to organize minyans and for certain holidays. She works in the JCV office. The Ghetto has become more of a destination for religious tourists, Rita told me. I recalled the three gondolas full of Orthodox Jews I had seen the day before, singing as they sailed down one of the many canals. It’s the only place for them to have a Jewish roof over their heads and kosher food, she continued on page 26 Ziva Kraus chose the Ghetto to open her photo gallery, Ikona, which hosts many important exhibitions throughout the year.
Marital problems? Go to Na’amat!
A Na’amat regional coordinator writes about a woman who came to Na’amat for legal help — and got a job, too!
woman called Anat turned to us at a Na’amat women’s rights center in search of legal advice about her marital problems. After talking to Anat, a Na’amat lawyer proposed inviting the husband to a conciliatory meeting. The husband had previously participated in mediation with his wife but had quit. The husband refused to attend, claiming that Na’amat is “an institution that is only in favor of women,” and that since he is a man, Na’amat would not be interested in doing anything for him. Finally, after talking to him several times, I managed to convince the husband to meet with the lawyer. While going over Anat’s application form for Na’amat, I realized that she was not working, so I asked her if she was interested in getting a job. She answered that she had not been able to find one, and that was the reason why she had not been sending her daughter to a day care center. Needless to say, I decided to help her at once. At first, I gave Anat “homework.” I prepared a CV form and asked her to fill it out with her own details for her résumé. When she sent it back, I saw she had made many spelling mistakes, and some of her sentences were not related to the general context. Anat had been ashamed to tell me that she had learning difficulties. She also said that during her childhood, she had been sent to a school for mentally challenged children for three years! Only three years after her mother had started her struggle with the Ministry of Education did she finally succeed in being accepted at a regular school. Unfortunately, this was not a very good experience either. Anat said that the school principal had told her mother that she would eventually “regret having insisted on sending her retarded daughter to our school.” The most amazing point about this story is that Anat is a charming woman, with excellent skills to express herself. But her learning difficulties were standing in her way, preventing her from succeeding in many diverse situations. I held an individual workshop for her, where we worked on getting ready to start working — writing a CV, conducting interview rehearsals and practicing how to act in them. Taking advantage of the time when Anat missed an opportunity of getting hired, because she had not found a proper day care center for her daughter, I decided to kill two birds with one stone. Since she has a certificate to work as a metapelet (caregiver) as well as much experience working with children, I sent her for an interview at one of our day care centers — and to another day care center to find the right framework for her daughter. To make a long story short, at present she works as a metapelet at one of our day care centers, and her daughter is taken care of at another Na’amat centers. As to the marital relationship, I referred them to couples psychotherapy, and there has already been some improvement. What satisfaction!
A Day of Female Solidarity
marked International Women’s Day, March 8, with a seminar on the theme “Creating New Pathways for Success” held at Sapir Academic College in Sderot. A stimulating panel of women holding key positions in different fields discussed the advancement of women. About 400 women, mostly from the south of Israel, participated. At the event, Na’amat president Talia Livni addressed Na’amat members worldwide: “International Women’s Day is a day of solidarity among women. Today we celebrate the achievements of women around the world and commemorate those who, while struggling for freedom and equality, have paid a price — sometimes losing their lives. “Luckily, we in the developed world do not have to fight for the mere right to live in safety, free from oppression. But we still have a long way to go before we can rest our virtual weapons. “Women are still abused and harassed. Women still earn much less than men. Women hold fewer senior leadership positions than men in business and politics. We may have advanced anti-discrimination legislation, and, yes, gender issues are raised and discussed widely, but the everyday reality of women is not so bright. “Many women hold a double career, having to juggle between a demanding labor market and raising families. We are not paid for our neverending work at home. The labor market ignores our unique needs as mothers and is not oriented practically toward parenthood. “Our mission as gender equality activists should be to bring about a deep shift in the ‘rules of the game.’ The labor market has to change and adapt itself to our needs. “If we believe strongly in change and fight for it, it will happen! “Now is the time to say: We have proved ourselves; we are OK; we are just fine; in fact, we are great! “Keep up your much appreciated work and devotion to the task of making the world a better place for women, children and families.”
Na’amat president Talia Livni.
More than 300 people attended the first of a series of events celebrating the 90th anniversary of Na’amat Israel. The event marked the publication of a collection of articles written by women who have been working toward their doctoral degrees. The studies in the collection reflect a diversity of gender issues, which are important in creating awareness and promoting the status of women. Talia Livni, president of Na’amat, spoke at the event; an excerpt from her address follows.
am proud and happy to present this collection of articles, which marks the path that connects Na’amat to academic research. This collection, which gathers articles written by women researchers who have received grants from Na’amat during the last seven years, reveals very important and interesting insights into gender issues and women’s experiences. While providing grants, Na’amat pursues a twofold goal. One, Na’amat is interested in the advancement of women researchers. Two, it promotes the development of research on
New logo for 90th Birthday
Celebrating 90 at Tel Aviv University
women in senior academic positions. women’s and gender issues that might serve as I would like to thank all the researchers the basis for action in achieving sexual equalwho contributed to this task and who wrote ity in society. Na’amat recognizes that planning articles especially for us, and give special successful activities that advance the status of thanks to Professor Hannah Naveh, presiwomen should be based on broadly established dent of the scholarship committee and the knowledge that exposes the roots of gender originator of the idea to offer scholarships for inequities as well as its many diverse manifesresearch grants to doctoral students. Each year, tations. This knowledge is also important in one of the scholarships offered is the result of provoking a change in consciousness. her own special contribution; she deserves our The historical struggle of women to enter double thanks for this. universities and research institutions has only I hope that this cooperation between the succeeded partially. Despite the fact that academia and the “field” will bring about women constitute a majority, 51 percent, of fruitful results. We should not forget that the all those university students who are granted activities of women’s organizations and those doctoral degrees, their presence in the higher of the academic research that deal with women academic positions at universities still reflects and gender issues go hand in hand toward a a minority. Women comprise only 26 percent of common goal: creating a more egalitarian and the university faculty, and only 13 percent of just existence for women. full-fledged professors. In a way similar to what takes place in the general working world, the percentage of women present in academia diminishes as you Na’amat marks the start of its 90th move up the ascending ranks and functions. anniversary events with the presentation of This points to a glass ceiling that prevents the a collection of articles on gender studies. promotion of women to senior positions and functions, despite their high rate as students for all academic degrees within the higher education system, and in spite of their successful integration. Therefore, Na’amat research grants are intended to encourage, assist and promote women researchers, and they symbolize the recognition of Na’amat as to the importance of integrating
Shirli Shavit, director of the Na’amat International Department, shares a moving Passover experience at a day care center. Shirli Shavit
n atttractive new logo was designed for Na’amat Israel’s 90th anniversary. Above the 90, it reads: Winner of the Israel Prize. At the bottom: Na’amat — a Social Force for Women. You can celebrate this historic occasion with our Na’amat sisters by joining the Anniversary Mission to Israel in November (see back page for details).
זוכת פרס ישר אל
Arab and Jewish children celebrate Passover at Shalom Day Care Center in Jaffa.
כח חברתי לנשים
wanted to share with you a very special experience that I had right before Passover. I visited the Shalom Day Care Center in Jaffa with a woman from El Salvador who is president of one of the leading trade unions in South America.
The Shalom center has 71 children; half are Jewish and half are Arabs — Muslims and Christians. The caregivers speak Hebrew and Arabic to the children and teach everything simultaneously in both languages. All the holidays of the three religions are being taught
in this unique center. It is real coexistence without any barriers. When we entered the center the children were already sitting in a long festive table, covered with a beautiful tablecloth, flowers and Haggadot, waiting to begin the Pesach seder. It was a very moving experience to be there on that special day. The children were singing songs from the Haggadah with a guitar player. Our devoted caregivers made special food for Pesach, which was very tasty; matza and grape juice were on the table. The atmosphere was wonderful. Our visitor was most impressed, and we both felt that our world would be much safer if we were to take an example from these small children — Jewish, Muslims and Christians — of what friendship is all about.
The principal of Na’amat Hadera Technological High School talks about his life’s mission. Three hundred students attend Hadera Technological High School, grades 10 through 12. There are many professional areas in which they can specialize, including physical education, art design, photography, management and bookkeeping. Many of the students come from low socioeconomic backgrounds and have learning disabilities. Frustrated and unable to cope in the regular school system, they get a second chance in Na’amat’s special educational network. With the help and commitment of a devoted staff and with innovative programs that help them build self-confidence and effective study habits, Hadera students graduate, join the army and get a good start in life. What is your professional experience? I have taught history, citizenship and current affairs for more than 30 years, and have been the school principal for more than 20 years. Why have you chosen these subjects? While teaching these subjects, it is possible to transmit important values to the students and to offer these future Israeli citizens the possibility of identify-
ing with their national identity in all its diverse connotations. In this manner, students are guided into learning to respect and uphold the law — and to be sensible. They learn to do volunteer work. They learn about the importance of taking an active role within their communities and in Israeli society, as well as about the significance of their participation in Zahal, the Israeli Army. The best way to strengthen their national identification is by means of studying the past and present history of the Jewish people. It could be said that learning about these themes may turn the students into better future citizens, who are more involved with, more concerned about and have a higher sense of their contribution to their community. Are there any students that you remember in particular? I remember all of my students well and even keep in touch with many of them. I am proud of each and every one of the students who graduated from our school, who have later joined the army and who have experienced a significant military service.
Interview With Avraham Hadad
Avraham Hadad, the dedicated principal of Hadera High School for 20 years.
The great majority of our students have secured their future by means of the professional knowledge they acquired studying at our school. Some of them became wellknown military photographers, and some others work as hair designers and have become leaders in their field. Others followed a specialization in business administration and work as department managers. Some students learned to be medical or legal secretaries, and others went on to business studies in their accounting specialization. What do you remember about your first day as a teacher? My memories include the great excitement I felt due to the importance of the task, together with the feeling of the huge educational responsibility I was undertaking. But above all, I was filled with the motivation to succeed, since I had grown up in a family that had always been involved in the field of education. I believed that my natural role consisted of continuing on the family path. Even though many years have passed, I do not regret that decision. On the contrary, when I meet our graduates, I realize that
they have now built their own families and careers. This makes me feel proud and satisfied, and these feelings offer me complete gratification over and over again. Considering the present wornout status of the teacher in Israel, would you choose a different profession today? I would choose exactly the same option again. I consider the field of education to be a mission, and I call on all those good and high quality educators to join us, so as to elevate the level of education. Teaching and education are a difficult task, but the importance of the role keeps educators from feeling discouraged, and the sense of vocation overcomes all difficulties and pitfalls. I am still inspired by the satisfaction I obtain from my work. I hope I will be able to continue sharing my work with my professional team to lead the new generations into a better future and to encourage the development of independent learning and thinking. This excerpt is from an article published in Zman Hasharon.
Brazilians Visit Day Care
n the day before Yom Ha’atzmaut, a delegation from Rio de Janeiro visited Raquel de Queiroz, the Na’amat Brazil day care center in Ramat Gan. The children and staff prepared a special Israel Independence Day celebration with singing and dancing and gave each guest a flag and a souvenir made by the preschoolers. “It is very important for us to see our work,” said Ceres Malt Bin, president of Na’amat Brazil, “and to realize that we are making our goals a reality.”
BOOK REVIEWS The Oracle of Stamboul: A Novel By Michael David Lukas New York: HarperCollins 304 pages, $24.99
he book jacket of The Oracle of Stamboul foregrounds an emblematic flock of birds on a background of minarets. And one reads at the start, “Late in the summer of 1877, a flock of purple-and-white hoopoes suddenly appears over the town of Constanta on the Black Sea.” This appearance coincides with the birth of the protagonist oracle, one Eleonora Cohen, daughter of Leah, who dies in this childbirth scene, and father Yakob Cohen, a Jewish carpet merchant. On that day, two mysterious Tartar midwives show up to deliver the baby, having read the heavenly signs of her birth, and the Russian cavalry plunders their Romanian town. When Eleonora is very young, it becomes clear that she possesses extraordinary intelligence, memory and reading skills. Author Michael David Lukas, who has lived in Tunisia, Turkey, Egypt and Israel and whose studies (including a Fulbright) focused on the literature and culture of those regions, takes the reader along on a highly sensual path. For instance: “Ducking in and out of alleyways, the new season made itself felt in the tenacity of fruit flies buzzing around a pyramid of figs, in the increasingly confident tone of the muezzin and the growing petulance of shopkeepers in the produce market.” After Yakob’s death in an accident at sea, the spunky eight-year-old Eleonora, who has stowed away on the ship, is adopted by his friend and business associate Moncef Barcous Bey, a cultivated, wealthy, liberal Muslim living in an elaborately described mansion in Stamboul (forget about the usual preceding syllable “Ist” ). They are waited on by servants, including the motherly Mrs. Damakan, one of the Tartar midwives. Eleonora is given a tutor and access to Bey’s capacious library. This novel is a poetic, romantic fab-
ric, weaving plot as woof with extravagant and magical descriptions of food, clothing and possessions as warp. The threads of this colorful yarn are the many well-delineated, juicy characters, including the Ottoman Empire’s Sultan Abdulhamid II, his mother and the grand vizier, intertwined with international intrigue and conspiracies. Eleonora is invited to the Sultan’s palace because of the young Jewesses’ reputation for wisdom and insight. During an audience, she hears about the Imperial Admiralty’s request for the Sultan’s use of force to stop the harassment of German ships by Russian torpedo boats and is asked for her advice. She pipes up, “Perhaps this situation is somewhat like Appian’s account of King Mithridates, the Bythnians and Romans,” which turns out to be an apt guide toward a successful decision for the Ottoman Empire. At the next audience, Eleonora is asked a more general question regarding the Empire’s political situation. She replies with an analogy from Xenophon regarding the Hyrcanians and the Assyrians — and again her perceptive comments are points of valued assistance to the Sultan, who happens also to be a bird lover. So at this second meeting, it is no surprise that he asks Eleonora: “I have noticed a rather curious flock of purple hoopoes roosted around Moncef Bey’s house. Such birds are not common in the region. Furthermore they are primarily solitary creatures. The flock seems somewhat attached to you.” She replies: “That’s my flock. They were with me when I was born and followed me here from Constanta.” In his engaging first novel, Lukas gives us a mix of realism and imaginative fantasy, which works well. In his blog, the author writes: “I tried my best to portray a sense of multiethnic coexistence without ignoring anti-Semitism and the many other brands of ethnic strife rampant in the Ottoman Empire.” But it is a fable, and there are actually
no hoopoes that are purple and white, though these birds are highly regarded by some cultures (in one tale, King Solomon takes advice from a hoopoe, and it is the national bird of Israel). As the novel ends, Eleonora has a number of options for her future life. As her purple hoopoes chatter in the linden tree outside her window, she recalls a maxim out of her favorite book: “There is no sage wiser than the dictates of your own personal heart.” You will discover, if you read this remarkable novel, she follows that advice. — Gerd Stern Stern is a poet and artist.
Motti By Asaf Schurr Translated by Todd Hasak-Lowy Champaign, IL: Dalkey Archive Press 208 pages, $13.95 (paperback)
ith the Israeli Institute for Translation of Hebrew Literature, Dalkey Archive Press — an award-winning nonprofit publishing house connected with the University of Illinois — recently began a series of well-translated novels from Hebrew, joining their large and impressive international list of novels from other countries. The founder, John O’Brien, started a review for contemporary fiction about 15 years ago. He wanted to make available some of the great works of literature from around the world that didn’t exist in English. His mission, in a time when the whole notion of books and readers is under an oddly disconcerting siege (Will the books continue? Will the novel morph into a series of brief Twitter notes? Will we all lose any vestige of attention span that remains? Will all life go digital?) is a welcome move in the direction of hope. Motti, an award-winning novel by a young Jerusalem author, Asaf Schurr, reminds this reader of what could be an early draft of The Stranger by Albert Camus. It’s a sparse, affecting, sad novel
about deep alienation, about what happens between people and about a set of circumstances no one can predict that lead to even greater alienation, and, in a funny way, even greater life. Two men meet somewhere. The reader assumes it’s in the army, although that’s never explicit. Menachem is the leader. His silent follower, his disciple, his younger “brother” (they call each other brother) is Motti. Menachem has a wife named Edna with a sizable rear end. He likes women’s buttocks, speaks often of what he understands to be his virility, flirts with waitresses, sires children and drinks. He appears to be a simple man, of the cartoon meat and potatoes type. Sex, beef, a job that pays the rent. He does not appear to want for much. Motti’s life, like the Camus hero, is a shadow. He lives alone, and his only companion, besides his Wednesday night drinking with Menachem — a ritual they both enjoy — is a dog named Laika. Motti’s life is not really a life. He fantasizes about a girl named Ariella. The author never tells us how old she is — only that she’s too young, in school, has a backpack and lives upstairs with her mother. Motti imagines the life that he will have with Ariella, watching TV, even going out with Menachem and his wife. This persistent fantasy is as close as he comes to imagining a life, or having one. What happened to make him so removed, so incapable of more, is not the story that Schurr wants to tell. Just the facts — the facts he sparsely, beautifully, tightly creates, tell the story. A bit past the book’s middle, something happens to change things both a lot and a little. Menachem and Motti drink and then Menachem drives his car, hitting a woman. She dies. Motti takes the blame. Why not? Menachem has children at home and a wife. All Motti has is his dog. So he’s the one who goes to jail. Jail isn’t all that different from Motti’s other life. His fantasies remain intact. The guards tell him their life stories, so he’s even a little less lonely. What happens between Motti and Menachem, though, the sad path of their friendship, seems almost inevitable.
This is a very short novel, a read in one sitting, a story that is original and affecting in its spare matter-of-fact sadness. It’s even unexpectedly charming. Many reviewers quote the very same line from the novel, as if to explain who the characters are: “Look at them, at all the people in this novel —- if someone would really hug them, if someone would hold them tightly, they would fall to pieces.” — Esther Cohen Cohen writes poems, novels and various kinds of stories.
Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories By Edith Pearlman Lookout Books, University of North Carolina Wilmington 375 pages, $18.95 (paperback)
dith Pearlman’s newest collection of stories, Binocular Vision, is a magnificent collection of both old and new stories from the award-winning writer. As Ann Patchett observes in her introduction, “These stories are an exercise in imagination and compassion, a trip around the world, an example of what happens when talent meets discipline and a stunning intelligence.” Pearlman’s varied international settings and very wide cast of characters seem to belie her New England background and borrow from her experience as a travel writer. The stories are populated by people of all ages and all economic strata: children, businessmen, Jewish families, recent immigrants, Israelis, Europeans and North and South Americans; by families and people in unlikely relationships. When asked where her ideas come from, Pearlman says on her Web site: “My stories are rarely autobiographical, except in the Flaubertian sense that all characters from hero through villain to pet parrot c’est moi.… My ideas come from musings, from observation, from memory; from reading, from travel, from movies, from anecdotes heard or overheard, faces on the subway and rooms seen through a window. They are invented and borrowed and stolen….”
A thread of discomfort runs through many of the stories, which are often snapshots in time. Quiet anxiety sets the tone of several, such as “Inbound,” the story of 7-year-old Sophie on an outing with her parents and handicapped sister on the streets of New York. Pearlman’s use of succinct language and literary cadence reinforce the tension of the situation as both the child and her parents gradually realize they are separated. When tragedy is averted and they are uneventfully reunited, the disquiet remains; the reader is aware that something in the world has shifted for everyone involved. Of her writing process, Pearlman says: “I am slow. A sentence often takes an hour to compose before I throw it out,” and that compact elegance of language and economy of syntax is a Pearlman trademark. One of my favorite examples of Pearlman’s poetic language is a matter-of-fact description in the story “Home Schooling,” where a child describes the temporary quarters the family lives in while her father is dying of cancer. “When not in the hospital for treatments…my father slept in the front bedroom with my mother. A congregation of mahogany furniture kept them company. On the highboy stood a stag line of Dad’s medications. Mom’s perfume bottles flared their hips at the pills.” If any theme runs though the volume, it is perhaps the strange quality that mimics the act of bringing binocular vision into focus, much like the description in the story “Binocular Vision,” for which the volume is named. “I picked up the binoculars, took them to a window that looked out on the street, and directed them toward a leafless tree. I saw a brown blur, so I fiddled with the wheels on the instrument. Now the tree was hyperclear, making my eyes ache. Finally after more fiddling, I saw the tree plain and even vaguely menacing, like my greatuncle at the last family party who had leaned so close to me that his tie swayed in front of my eyes. But when I thoughtlessly reached out to touch the tree’s bark, I touched instead the windowpane.” Much like that story itself, the book SUMMER 2011
BOOK REVIEWS is about the places our vision penetrates and the gaps in that vision; about the action of focusing on small details that give a clue to the larger picture — sometimes accurately and sometimes disturbingly less so. Pearlman’s binocular vision, then, is the difference between what her characters see and what they understand. This book is so rich, it deserves a permanent place on the bedside table where it can be opened from time to time to savor glimpses into Pearlman’s world, much like the binoculars that one leaves on the windowsill to view the birds at the backyard feeder. — Marilyn Rose Rose is an artist, designer and writer.
How We Age: A Doctor’s Journey Into the Heart of Growing Old By Marc Agronin Cambridge, MA: DaCapo Press 302 pages, $25
hen spring comes, I want to put a ribbon in my hair and dance barefoot in the park,” my aunt Frieda Leviant told me in Gedera, Israel, when she was in her early 80s. “Other people may think of me as old,” said this still beautiful, high-cheekboned, vibrant and youthful woman, “but inside I feel like 17…. I’m only old when I catch my reflection in other people’s eyes.” In her late 60s, Frieda began to paint and sculpt, working for 20 more years as an artist, exhibiting and selling her artworks. Dr. Marc Agronin would have loved her, for she fits into the model that he posits for older people in his illuminating and deeply humane book on aging: to have hope and be engaged. As a geriatric psychiatrist and medical director for Mental Health and Clinical Research at the Miami Jewish Health Systems (where Isaac Bashevis Singer spent the last two years of his life), Agronin is in a unique position to observe, counsel and treat older patients, many of whom are Holocaust survivors. A central thesis that the author develops is that old age does not necessarily 22
equal decline, and that despite the stumbling blocks of aging — infirmity, frailty, dementia and depression — there is also room, given the right circumstances, along with helpful family members and caregivers, for joy, pride, satisfaction and growth. Agronin suggests that the mission of his book is to “offer a more balanced perspective on aging.” He wants to “honestly explore” old age through the lives of his patients, highlighting a few of the beneficent aspects of growing old. Even with memory loss, he contends, life goes on and, surprisingly, even thrives for some people. For instance, a wife of a man with slowing memory states that her husband mellowed, was less hard on himself, and became more involved and loving with his grandchildren than ever before. The author gives the example of 98-year-old Emma, who had lost her husband and three children in the Holocaust — then, after the war, miraculously discovered that her youngest son, Chaim, had been saved. Still, at 98, she is haunted by her past and wants to die. Among the many things Agronin has learned from his patients is that people like that needed extra attention and time, and not an extra dose of antidepressant medication. Just listening to them pour out their hearts and sympathizing could be beneficial. Then, another small miracle occurs. Emma’s sister-in-law, who has just lost her husband (Emma’s brother), comes to the same Miami facility and moves into Emma’s room. The 85-year-old Rachel, also a Holocaust survivor, knows very little English and speaks only Yiddish and Hungarian. Emma then becomes her mentor, guide and caregiver. She escorts her to all appointments and is her personal translator with all the staff. She advises Rachel regarding doctors and consoles her after her loss. By helping another human being, her own despondency is mitigated, and Emma begins showing up for all her own medical appointments with a renewed lease on life. In Agronin’s practice, surprises
abound. A 93-year-old woman had just come into the nursing home after losing her husband of 73 years. The author sits next to her and asks sympathetically what it is like to lose a husband after so many years of marriage? The old woman pauses for a minute and then declares: “Heaven!” After his initial shock wears off, the doctor learns that the woman had endured decades of an unhappy marriage with a man who was gruff and verbally abusive. She now feels liberated. And, indeed, she soon finds new activities and friendships at the nursing home. Agronin interlards his observations with salient quotes from other medical authorities — and also quotes liberally from the Bible, Melville, Socrates, Virgil, Shakespeare, T. S. Eliot and others (he majored in psychology and philosophy at Harvard). No doubt his familiarity with world literature, along with his medical knowledge and vast experience, helps him to better understand human beings. One of the most touching stories in How We Age is about the Holocaust survivor whose husband had died after 60 years of marriage. The woman becomes depressed and thinks of suicide. The author asks her how she had hope in Auschwitz when she knew each day might be her last. She replies that girls helped each other. If one was weak, the other propped her up. If one couldn’t shovel, another would shovel with her. “We were desperate but never alone.” After she is referred to a social club for older people with mild memory problems, Agronin stands unobserved in back of the room one day. He hears another woman bemoaning her failing memory. Then the Auschwitz survivor says: “We have to have hope. We’re in the same boat here, together.” And tears begin to form in the doctor’s eyes; he doesn’t want his patient to see him crying. A doctor who weeps! Fortunate are the patients who have such a sensitive and wise man to help them — a doctor, a mentch. And fortunate are we, the readers, to have such a profound book in our hands. — Curt Leviant Leviant’s most recent book is the comic A Novel of Klass.
continued from page 7 influence them. We want to be very Israeli, we want to be a part of the gang and be invited to the party, but they don’t always invite you to come. On the other hand, we want to talk to our parents about something emotional for us, but we don’t always know how to explain it in their language.” Nevertheless, says Beru, who is working on getting backing for his second feature film, he believes that if Israelis are offered quality work they will come see it for themselves. “It’s like with a couple. It has to go both ways. You have to offer something good for them to want to see it.” In April, Meskie Shibru, 44, became the first Ethiopian actress to take to the stage in a leading role for a mainstream theater production, in playwright Ephraim Sidon’s “Lizzy,” a retelling of “Lysistrata.” Shibru portrays Lizzy, who convinces women from the different segments of Israeli life to declare a sex strike to get the men to stop waging war. Israel’s best known Ethiopian actress and vocalist, Shibru came to Israel on her own as a 16-year-old in 1985, supposedly to study computer science. But she soon turned to her first love, acting, and began studying at the prestigious Nissan Nativ Studio. Her siblings later joined her in Israel, but her mother was able to be reunited with her family only after several years — two of them which she spent behind bars as a Prisoner of Zion in Ethiopia for having helped other Ethiopian Jews escape to Israel. It was not easy to enter the acting world in Israel, recalls Shibru, because of the language barrier, but she persisted and, indeed, she now looks back at that as “the easy part” of her climb to success. If there was any criticism or comments about her background, she says, she never paid attention and kept her goal in sight. Calling herself a very spiritual person, the divorced mother of two young teenagers says she keeps a positive attitude and continues to seek out the good in people. Usually, she notes, that is what she finds. “I was very focused on myself and
advancing myself and less on what people were saying,” she says. “I am a person of goals, and when I have a goal I just move toward that. That’s how I live my life today, too. It’s obvious that with every goal there will be obstacles, but that is part of life. You realize that Israel is made up of so many [waves] of immigration and people from so many places. For immigrants, it is harder coming to a new mentality, a new country. It is very complex and difficult, but it is also your home.” On the one hand, she observes, it is difficult for all actors in Israel, since it is a small country with limited acting possibilities. On the other hand, as an Ethiopian woman, roles are still extremely limited because the color of her skin always singles her out. In addition to numerous shows and musical performances, Shibru appeared in a 1999 episode of the popular Israeli TV series “Zinzana” and was also cast as the mother of the main character in the 2005 French-Belgian-Israeli-Italian film “Go, Live and Become,” which tells the story of a non-Jewish Ethiopian boy whose mother sends him to Israel to improve his life. “I see life as a big challenge,” she says. “Today there is much more openness [toward differences]. Before I had to prove myself all the time. Now I don’t have to prove myself anymore. Now people just see Meskie. I think one of the reasons I have made a name for myself is that I am not trying to be someone else. I am very connected to my roots and I go with who I am.” Just as she has instilled a sense of pride of their Ethiopian roots in her children, whose father is Ashkenazi, Shibru also is intent on giving Ethiopian youth a sense of empowerment through drama, with the aid of psychodrama workshops. She realizes that she is seen by many as a role model, having come to Israel as an immigrant with no connections and having attained the level of success that she has. “When I look at my children, they are very rich inside with all the cultures,” she says. “They have Polish and Russian roots, Ethiopian roots. They hear Amharic. They study French, speak perfect English. They see the Ethiopian coffee ceremony and take their friends to
their grandmother’s house. That is who I am and it is part of my family and I am proud. They enjoy all the worlds and it is beautiful.” In choosing her projects, it is important to Shibru to have a sense of what the audience is also interested in. Currently, she is working on a show in Amharic for the Ethiopian community. In all the productions she works in, she sees the opportunity to pass on messages, Shibru says. “It is easier for me to come and to give and not just to take. People hear and listen to you, and they will try to pass on your message. The messages change depending on the time and social situation.” On a darkened stage in a small theater in Haifa, a group of Ethiopian dancers face each other as the strains of music with an exultant beat begin to play as they portray a traditional wedding dance, with a twist. Dressed in white with traditional embroidery along the edges of their garments, the dancers place their hands on their hips and begin to shake their shoulders in the custom of the Eskesta Ethiopian shoulder dancing. Then from the wings another dancer, dreadlocks flying in his wake, leaps onto stage and kicks up the beat of the performance a notch. The dancer is Tzvika Iskias, 28, who joined the Beta Dance Troupe (founded in 2005 by former professional dancer Ruth Eshel) a year ago, after having spent three and a half years as part of the Batsheva Dance Company and later as a dancer in Sweden. He came aboard with the Beta not only to dance, but also to collaborate with troupe associate director Meeka Ya’ari and Eshel in bringing freshly choreographed pieces to the stage. He was excited by the chance to combine the traditional moves of the Ethiopian shoulder dance with the experimental moves of modern dance — though his dance studies had previously concentrated on classical and modern dance. Iskias came to Israel on Operation Moses with his parents when he was two. A self-described “troublemaker” as a child, he bounced from one boarding school to another until he was 15. When he was 12, he joined a jazz group at a community center in Jerusalem, hoping to meet girls and instead, recalls Iskias, SUMMER 2011
he soon realized he had discovered his life profession. Facing being a professional dancer in the Ethiopian community was like the movie “Billy Elliot,” “but worse,” Iskias explains, though now his family is proud of his accomplishments, and young Ethiopian-Israelis interested in dance see him as a role model. “I want to keep the tradition, but we have to make it modern. There is a lightness and strength in the movements. There is nothing else like that in Israeli modern dance,” says Iskias, noting that he is not interested in performing straight “folklore” dance. “We have something totally different, totally authentic with techniques that are completely unlike classical ballet. I want to take that as the basis, preserve the language of the movements — not make them into classical ballet — but then put in something else.” Though his love for dance is universal, he hopes that through dance he can expose Israelis to his Ethiopian roots. Some people may just be interested in the curiosity of Ethiopian dance, he speculates, but he hopes they will also come for the freshness of combination between the traditional and the modern. Most of the audiences who come to see the troupe are made up of white Israelis, he says, adding that of the older Ethiopian Israelis who have come to see the dancers have been a bit rattled by the combination of the traditional movement with modern dance. Reaction to the dance numbers has been good, observes Iskias, but he hopes that one day the audience will “go crazy” over the dancing. Iskias, who also teaches modern, jazz and hip hop dancing to youngsters, says he never aimed to be “The First Ethiopian Dancer” but realizes that is how he is now recognized. Sometimes, though, it hits him and he thinks: “Wow. I’m the first one who brought this in the community.” Being recognized simply as a performer for the sheer merits of a person’s talents rather than as an “Ethiopian” is a process, notes actor and comedian Yossi Vassa, 35, who has traveled abroad with his one-man show, “It Sounds Better in Amharic,” about life in Israel as 24
an Ethiopian. He recently returned from a Canadian production of his show, “One of a Kind,” the true story of his family’s journey to Israel, which he co-wrote with TV writer Shai Ben Attar, and which was first performed at the Nephesh Theater in Tel Aviv. “The reality forces us to deal with who we are in the community, dealing strongly with our identity and our connection here,” says the married father of a 9-month-old girl, following a performance attended by a group of young, mostly Russian-Israeli soldiers. “We are creating a new art and we have to do it, but we can’t be something that we aren’t. It is important we be there; it is a place where we can contribute a lot to Israeli society. It’s a place where we can put a mirror up to the audience, and we can move and change things.” Before Vassa appears quietly on stage for his performance, the soldiers had been rowdy and a bit disorderly, shouting and teasing each other across the room. But within minutes, Vassa has them laughing with him at the slightly exaggerated stereotypes he uses to get his point across. In between poking fun at everything from Ethiopian marriage and the chutzpah of Israeli youngsters, he tells parts of the story of his trek through Sudan at the age of 10 to come to Israel in Operation Moses. The audience listens attentively as he recounts how his grandmother and two younger brothers died in their attempt to reach Israel. Afterward, several soldiers go up to congratulate him on the performance. “Humor is a very powerful tool,” Vassa says. “You can make some very strong statements, but if they are done with humor, then it feels more like a caress. When you are on the stage, it is not important who you are or who I am. What is important is that I am telling you a story and am connecting you to that story, engaging you in it. I am putting on stage a human story where people can see that they met a real person and not a monkey from Africa.” Although the basic immigration experience is something all immigrants can relate to regardless of their origin, Vassa notes, for Ethiopian-Israelis the process was much more complex because of the tremendous socioeconomic and cultural
gap they had to forge and because of the color of the skin. Most Israelis don’t comprehend the huge rupture the Ethiopian newcomers had to overcome when they reached Israel, he points out, adding that he didn’t learn how to read and write until he was 11 years. Vassa has also written a play in Amharic, “Mar Ghetto,” specifically for the Ethiopian community, where he laughs at the Ethiopian experience in Israel. “I love Ethiopian traditions, I love Ethiopian stories. That’s what I wanted to do, to speak [to the Ethiopian community] in their language which is my language,” he explains. Vassa dreams of the day when he can perform “Waiting for Godot,” but even then, he predicts, he will do it in a “different way.” Though Ayala Ingedashet, 32, was born in Ethiopia and came to Israel as a 2-year-old with her parents in 1981, Israel is her true home, and all her memories are from Israel, says the young singer. With her self-titled debut album in 2007, a rhythm and blues/soul production, she was signed by Israeli record label Hed Arzi, becoming the first Ethiopian-born Israeli singer with a major label deal. She has since achieved popularity and has performed with acts like Ehud Banai, Mosh Ben-Ari, Jill Scott and Macy Gray. She has also appeared on stage at the Habima National Theater. Ingedashet joined a youth musical group at the age of 14 in Ashdod without the knowledge of her parents, who kept a religious home. As a religious girl she didn’t intend to join the army, she recalls, until she became aware of the possibility of serving in the Israel Defense Force’s musical troupe, which she secretly auditioned for three years later. At first, her father found it difficult to accept his daughter’s foray into the world of music and show business, recalls Ingedashet, smiling as she looks out the large window of the home in a southern Moshav she shares with her Moroccan husband and 3-year-old son. Having lived in Tel Aviv for 10 years, Ingedashet recently moved with her family to the home next door to her in-laws, searching for a more simple lifestyle. With her success came compliments even from within the Ethiopian community, she says. And although this
was not her main aim when she embarked on her journey into music, Ingedashet’s father is now proud of her when he hears people say that she has brought pride and honor to the Ethiopian community. She sings in Hebrew, but in her album some of the tracks have bits of Ethiopian music in the introduction, and in “Memaheret” (In a Hurry) there are a few words of Tigrit, an Ethiopian language, serving as part of the refrain. Lately Ingedashet has become curious to learn more about her Ethiopian cultural roots, and after having met jazz saxophonist Berihun during the December Jerusalem festival, she is considering taking a few lessons with him. Though she bristles at labels of any kind — sometimes when people emphasize that she is Ethiopian too often, it seems as if they are relating to her as some sort of “small sweet pet” — Ingedashet says she realizes that just by the virtue of the color of her skin, she is unique in the Israeli music scene. And she is also savvy enough to realize that the use of an Ethiopian language — even if she does not speak it fluently — can be another hook to make her stand out in a very competitive world. “This is my tradition, my roots, where I was born,” she states. “Maybe one day I will be able to do something deeper than just use a few sentences.” Ingedashet is now working on a second album, which will reflect the changes that have taken place in her life since becoming a wife and mother. As the singer has become better known, people, especially young Ethiopian girls, stop her in the street to talk to her, she comments, to praise her work and let her know how much she has influenced them to continue with their own dreams. “It is always very emotional for me and always ends with a tear and a hug,” says Ingedashet. “It’s fun because it is like giving me a stamp of approval, saying there are people behind you — that even though you have chosen a different path, they appreciate your work.” For Mazal Damoza, 23, a young dancer with the Beta Dance Troupe who was born in Israel, performing on a stage has brought her closer to her Ethiopian roots.
As a youngster she never delved into the traditional world of her parents, she says, striving to be like her Israeli friends — concerned most about the latest fads and television shows. But then her father died 10 years ago and something changed inside of her. “I felt devastated and was searching for something to anchor me, and I decided I had to return to my roots,” recalls Damoza, who sports a tattoo on her shoulder and is completing her degree in sociology at Haifa University. She always loved the Ethiopian dancing, which figures so prominently in all the social gatherings, and when she found out about the Beta Dance Troupe she decided to try out. “Before, my traditions and what had happened in the past had not interested me,” Damoza explains. “I was young and immature. But when I joined the group, I discovered a whole new world.” Not only did it provide a connection to her roots but it also became a vital form of self-expression. “This dancing is a part of me. I feel the most ‘me’ with it. I discovered myself again,” she reflects. But, she adds, since the dances incorporate modern dance as well, anyone can feel a connection to it. “As a minority, it is easy for people to put us into a corner and not see any importance in what we are saying and/or have to offer. But the biggest thing I have to offer Israel is my culture.” Two years ago, Damoza traveled to Ethiopia with the troupe, and it has become much easier for her now to ask her mother about her life in Ethiopia, about her village and how they lived. The youngest of five children, Damoza is the only one still living at home and often finds herself sitting with her mother, talking about their traditions and performing the time honored coffee ceremony. “It is something we do at least once a day and includes a prayer, but which I never paid attention to before,” notes Damoza. “It is as if I have rediscovered my mother — and it’s fun.” Judith Sudilovsky is a freelance writer in Jerusalem. She wrote “Can Dialogue Help Create Peace?” in our winter 2010/11 issue.
continued from page 11 relevant to modern-day agriculture. Rabbi Yonatan Neril, Jewish Eco Seminars’ young founder, took me on a private tour of the Mahane Yehuda market. It was a cold and rainy winter day when I met him at the Natural Choice Bakery on Agrippas Street, just behind the shuk, where I discovered healthy snacks like gluten-free, sugar-free carob brownies. I had been to the shuk hundreds of times but had never viewed it through an environmental lens. Walking through the main section of the market, where vendors were hawking an eye-popping assortment of fruits, vegetables, baked goods and hand-dipped chocolates, to name a few, Neril, who has a degree in environmental issues, explained how the food Israel imports and exports contributes to the country’s carbon footprint. The good news, Neril said, “is that the food that is produced in Israel is very, very fresh because it’s grown relatively locally and doesn’t have to travel long distances.” The bad news: “Israel imports many things,” he noted, pointing out the imported wines and cheeses at a Mahane Yehuda gourmet shop, “and also exports water-guzzling produce that Europeans want but can’t grow themselves in the winter.” When we stopped every so often to appreciate the aroma of freshly made kubeh soup and the vendors shouting out the special of the day, Neril began to discuss the many Jewish texts that deal with agriculture, famine and plenty, and how to find a balance. Gazing at the sheer volume of food all around us, Neril expressed gratitude. “It’s amazing how many varieties of things we have here in Israel.” The challenge, he said is finding a way to feed ourselves and our neighbors without destroying the environment in the process. Michele Chabin is a journalist living in Jerusalem. She covers the Middle East for the New York Jewish Week and other publications. She wrote “Volunteering in Israel” in our spring 2011 issue. SUMMER 2011
continued from page 16 said, adding that Austrian Jews come just for Shabbat. “Everyone here is family, though we are different kinds of Jews — and there are many ties through marriage.” Rita hopes that some of the young people will return and that the community can bring in more young families She pointed out that the security official at the Spanish synagogue is from Israel, along with his wife and three children. Next stop: Ikona Gallery, an attractive space renovated from the ground up by owner Ziva Kraus and opened as a photo gallery in 2003. Ziva had owned galleries in other parts of Venice previously, but she likes the Ghetto and is “happy to be here.” Her father, a lawyer from Croatia, managed to survive the Holocaust by crossing into Italy, then going to Switzerland, where he met her mother, who had survived imprisonment in Slovenia. Originally from Zagreb, Ziva came to Venice in 1971. Her twin brother is president of the Jewish community in Zagreb. Most of the exhibitions are of a non-Jewish nature, she said, but some are related to Jewish themes, such as Yom Hashoah. Not an observant Jew, Ziva sees religion as a private matter and emphasizes the importance of the Jewish connection as a matter of conscience. A recent show, “Photography and Memory,” brought together striking images from the collections of the Foundation Jewish Contemporary Documentation Center in Milan and the Library and Archive Renato Maestro of the Jewish Community of Venice along with photos by Michele Levis, which “provide clues about the lives of Italian and Venetian Jews,” said Ziva. “It is my belief that discovering the exhibition against the Ghetto and its campo lends it a special resonance that heightens and enhances our interpretation, or understanding, of our relationship with life.” Ziva gave me a book based on the exhibition, also called Fotografia e Memoria, which juxtaposes pre-war and recent photos of Jewish life in Italy. In the foreward, Shaul Bassi wrote: “With appropriate humility, there are gathered here photos that document life before 26
and after the caesura of the Holocaust, dialectically uniting the piercing feeling of loss for those who are no longer, with a heartfelt longing of hope for those who are, who continue to live.” On the eve of World War II, there were about 1,500 Jews living in the Ghetto. During the Holocaust, 247 Venetian Jews were deported by the Nazis; only eight returned. A visit to the Library Renato Maestro is predictably fruitless as far as research, as most of the works are in Italian and languages other than English. But there I met two interesting women. A mother and daughter, both professors at the University of Florence, have been researching their family history going back to Venice in the 1700s. The family name is Treves on the mother’s side (a famous name in Venetian Jewish banking). It seems that several generations ago, she had “grandparents” (or more likely great grandparents) that wanted to intermarry and needed approval from the Pope. The family has been Catholic ever since. The mother proudly unfolds an enormous family tree. In the most centrally located place in the Ghetto, looking out at the campo, is the Chabad office. It was filled with young men, among them several students from other parts of Europe, hovering over computers. Some had come for a short summer visit, to help in some way; some were studying in the small rabbinical yeshiva, across the campo, which also serves as the space for holding prayer services. Outside the office, a few enthusiastic men were doing the usual Chabad thing: encouraging men to come in and put on tefillin. I was looking for Shachar Banin, wife of the Chabad director, Rabbi Bamy Banin, whom I had e-mailed before leaving New York. We met a couple of times over the next few days. She is probably the busiest woman I have ever met. Sitting on a bench in the campo, as two of her three children played around us, we talked about women’s souls and roles, and the future of Jewish life in Venice. Shachar is relentlessly positive. Her work, the work of Chabad, she explained, is “to plant seeds in the Jewish community — and it will grow. These seeds bring life and hope and they show the strength of the community that once lived here; they represent
the continuation of the beautiful Jewish history.” Chabad, she said, goes out to the community; they know all the Jews; they bring food and items for the holidays. The students volunteer in the general community with the ambulance boats and soup kitchens. Her husband runs the year-long rabbinical program, which he started. There were no daily minyans until Chabad came in 1986. When I asked about tensions between Chabad and the Jewish community of Venice, which some people had mentioned, Shachar diplomatically observed: “[The divisions] are not in the Torah — they are man-made — we’re all Jews in the Ghetto.” She insisted there are no tensions, but others had given me examples of Chabad not recognizing the Orthodox status of the community. I decided not to pursue the issue and move on to women. Women have inherent spiritually elevated souls, according to the Torah, said Shachar. Though I have my problems with the role of women and lack of equality in Orthodox Judaism, and could argue about a number of issues, I decided to just listen to what she has to say about women’s importance in Judaism. Originally from the United States, Shachar was brought up in a Reform synagogue where she was the first woman to wear a kippa. As we talked, she seemed sort of OK with Jewish women who want to expand their traditional roles, but questioned their motives: “Is it just an ego thing?” Of course women should pray and study, she noted, “but we all have a job to do, and if you don’t do it, who will? The woman sets the atmosphere; she is the foundation of the home. Even if you have Mr. Mom and she’s a CEO, women are on a spiritually higher level than men. We don’t need to wear a kippa — it brings the self down. We must use the ego in the right way. Women have the command from God to keep the world going, to affect change…. It’s all about making a place for God to live with us in the physical world. Do your job, do the mitzvot, that’s it; you don’t have to worry about the minor things.” She is glad she’s not required to go to Saturday morning services and can just relax. She also told me that if a woman takes a post-
menopausal dunk in the mikveh, never having done it before, it’s as if she’s done it all her life. It’s a good deal, I thought, and later considered doing it. But then what about my intention? Shachar is like the CEO of the Ghetto. She oversees Gam Gam, the Chabad restaurant, where she runs the kitchen, creates dishes and the menu, orders meat from Vienna and dairy from France and Israel. (All the workers in the restaurant are men, I noticed on Shabbat.) She started a day school for the young children. She takes care of her three kids; e-mails people from all over the world; helps out at the office, talks to tourists. It was late afternoon and I was hungry, so I headed off to Chabad’s pizza shop, close to Gam Gam. It was one of the best slices I’ve ever had. The next day, I took a vaporetto (public boat transportation) to the island of Lido to see the Jewish cemetery. Indeed, the community has been “reviving” the cemetery — straightening gravestones, doing new landscaping. I spent hours roaming the acres of gravesites that date from the late 1300s to the present. Bathed in a patchwork of sunlight and shade, and ranging from well groomed to rustic, the terrain is covered with all kinds of markers — columns, steles, burial covers — and sarcophagi. A recent gravesite was decorated with Israeli flags. I was particularly intrigued by the headstones displaying photos of the deceased. Looking at the faces of the serious and stately women, I wondered about the lives they led centuries ago. Friday night brought me back to Chabad. The small prayer room was filled with tourists from many places. I sat next to a woman from Manchester, England. Originally from Ireland, she moved her family to Manchester to live among a larger Jewish population. A group of beautiful young women from Australia sat behind me. I met them again at Gam Gam, for the second round of the crowded freilach dinners that Chabad serves, for free, on Shabbat. The women have completed school and are traveling — and I suppose looking for nice observant guys. The following Shabbat, I attended the magnificent Spanish Synagogue,
one of two functioning shuls in the Ghetto. Four of the Ghetto’s five shuls can be visited — they were built according to ethnic groups: Ashkenazi (French and German), Sephardic (Spanish), Italian and Levantine (Greek and Turkey). Founded by Jews expelled from the Iberian Peninsula in the 1490s, the Spanish Synagogue is used from Passover until the High Holy Days when the Levantine shul takes over. The four-story stone building was constructed in 1580 and restored during 1635 to 1654. Like the other synagogues, it was “hidden” in order to be tolerated by non-Jews: The exterior gives no sign of it being a house of worship. Jews from around the world packed the synagogue. I sat in the seat of one of the Sullam women, according to a tiny bronze plaque. With my eyes half closed, I could be davening with Sara Coppio Sullam in 1620 and perhaps the next night attending one of her salons. But I was sitting next to a quite elderly woman who said, in very limited English, that she had just come from Israel and that she once had a bat mitzvah in this synagogue. She read each word of the siddur softly out loud, usually ahead of the rabbi. Dressed in the sort of housecoat common to Venetian women, I wondered how she came from Israel; she was not with one of the many groups. Curious, I looked for her after the service, and tried to find someone who knew her. Then I saw her disappear way down the street, walking with two canes, in the direction of the hotel. — or perhaps the old-age home. The Levantine Synagogue, just a few steps away, was built between 1538 and 1561. This, too, has a modest façade but is lavishly adorned inside. A few minutes of walking took me to the Jewish Museum. On the floors above it is the German Synagogue (Scola Grande Tedesca), the oldest shul in Venice, built by the Ashkenazi community in 1528. Its five arched windows, representing the Five Books of Moses, are the only clue to its religious purpose. The shul’s plan is asymmetrical, with the women’s gallery set high and close to the ceiling, looking like a Venetian theater of the 18th century Next door is the Canton Synagogue, built by Ashkenazim, probably French, in 1531. It is recognizable from
the outside only by the wooden cupola that appears among the roofs. And adjacent to this shul is the Scola Italiana, built around 1571, also with five large windows. The Jewish Museum is small but full of interesting objects from the Ghetto’s past: tallit covers, circumcision instruments, Torahs, silver ritual objects. On the first floor is a modern, spacious bookstore and café where you can get coffee and Italian Jewish pastries. So what about the future? I think about Shaul’s vision for an academic program in which scholars, students, artists and writers can live in the Ghetto’s unique historical environment and interact with the local community — a program capable of restoring the Ghetto to “its most positive historical vocation.” Instead of the melancholic and nostalgic place the Ghetto can seem to be, he dreams of a “new cultural traffic capable of creating a vivacious, pluralistic, international Jewish life.” I wish the Jews of Venice well. The combined visions of people like Shaul, the community activists and the Chabadniks bode well for the life of the Ghetto. The much younger me would consider opening a bagel shop there. The older me hopes that I can contribute to their recovery in some small way. Ciao and l’hitraot — I’ll be back. Judith A. Sokoloff is the editor of Na’amat Woman. She was a resident at the Emily Harvey Foundation in Venice.
Web Sites for the Venice Jewish Ghetto Jewish Community of Venice: www.jvenice.org Chabad-Lubavitcher: www.jewishvenice.org Ikona Venezia: www.ikonavenezia.com Magic Stone: www.kiddushinvenice.com The Studio Michal Meron: www.studiomichalmeron.com The Jewish Museum of Venice: www.museoebraico.it David’s Shop: www.davidshop.com SUMMER 2011
AROUND THE COUNTRY √ Cleveland Council presents an Oneg Shabbat featuring Anita Gray, Jewish community liaison to Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio), who spoke about Congressional issues. From left: Marguerite Morris, Anita Gray, Susan Haas and Stacie Madow.
πMore than 90 women attended San Fernando Council’s first “Membership Mixer,” conceived and initiated by membership vice presidents Talma Zelitzki and Michelle Eskenazi to attract new members. The lox and bagel brunch, held at the home of Golda club president Nazila Feraydoumy, was complimentary for members who brought prospective members. Everyone enjoyed hearing the two guest speakers. Illana Shoshan, who was Miss Israel of 1980 and recently crowned Miss Israel of All Time, spoke about the need to empower Israeli women. Council president Esther Friedberg discussed Na’amat programs. Non-members were encouraged to join — and were announced and cheered when they did. Some 25 women became members! From left, first row: Nazila Feraydoumy, Rachael Isaacs, Talma Zelitzki; second row: Esther Friedberg, fund-raising vice president Rene Peters, Western Area coordinator Hillary Botchin, Eva Eskenazi, Michelle Eskenazi; third row: Esther Shapiro, national board member Gail Simpson, Cipy Baron, Karin Loeb, vice president Susan Isaacs and Ellen Barshop. πSan Fernando Valley Council held its annual leadership seminar at a private home in Sherman Oaks, CA. The one-day conference, organized by Renee Algazy, Elka (Ellen) Ginsburg-Caplan and Ivy Liebross, drew 22 women from a number of Na’amat clubs in the region. Topics included the latest developments and projects of Na’amat USA and Na’amat Israel; empowering women in leadership roles; innovative recruiting techniques, such as online social networking; and informative club discussions. This seminar will hopefully be a model for other councils across the United States.
πMasada/Natanya club (Broward Council) sponsored a Literary Chai Luncheon, featuring Ellen Brazer, author of Clouds Across the Sun. The event benefited Na’amat Israel day care centers. From left: Marjorie Moidel, Southeast Area coordinator; Sally Romano, event chair; Ellen Brazer; Helen Lefkowitz, co-president; and Helen Cantor, co-president.
√ Cleveland Council hosted “March Mahj Madness,” a Mah Jongg tournament and fund-raiser organized by Ellen Saltz, Raycine Spector, Charlene Ratner, Myrna Groger and Ronna Sherman.
πBroward Council celebrates the 85th birthday of Na’amat USA at its gala anniversary luncheon. From left: guest speaker Elizabeth Raider, national president; Gloria Elbling Gottlieb, past national president; and Marjorie C. Moidel, Southeast Area coordinator.
√ South Florida Council’s Mazel and Or clubs celebrate Na’amat USA’s 85th anniversary with cocktails, dinner and entertainment. Concert pianist Mireille Shaio was honored as a “Patron of the Arts.” Proceeds of the event benefit Ayanot Agricultural High School. From left: Matilde Behar, Or club president; Mireille Shaio; Raquel Rub, national board member and Council president. Photo below, from left: Vivian Fulop; Rebecca Reiner; Anny Stern; Mary Stone; Mazal club president and treasurer Anabel Rub Peicher; Amparo Dargoltz; Miriam Bimblich and Luisa Gottlieb; seated: Anabelle Szafir Cohen and Naomi Sifnugel Grobman.
© Paul Hornick
πGreater Washington Council presents Steve and Cokie Roberts, the well-known political commentators and writers, at its annual Spiritual Adoption luncheon. The best-selling authors spoke about their lives and their new book, Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families. More than 200 people attended this wonderful event.
πNatanya chapter (San Fernanado Valley Council) honors dedicated member Evelyn Bauer as Woman of the Year. Members and friends wore appropriate hats for this traditional afternoon tea. From left, front row: Zita Gluskin, honoree Evelyn Bauer, Shaine Smolens, Mary Myerson; back: Harriet Leibovitch, Sharon Valera, Rose Horkin, Phyllis Schub.
√ Shalom club (Long Island/Queens Council) enjoyed its annual feminist Passover seder. From left, first row: Council membership and fund-raising vice president Tal Ourian, Linda Biderman, Carol Knecht and Laura Smith; second row: new member Dina Meir, Florence Lefkowitz, club president Nadine Simon, Marsha Jaffe, Rhonda Eisenstadt, Eleanor Blackman and Diane Hershkowitz.
Life Membership Sale! 3 Months Only
continued from page 3 promise for many teenagers who might otherwise “fall through the cracks,” and we advocate for progressive legislation for the rights of women and children. Concern for women’s rights is another bond that we have with Na’amat Israel, as its members are also a very active force in supporting legislation to achieve equality for women, particularly in the workforce. Talia Livni, president of Na’amat Israel, has been a staunch supporter in fighting for passage of legislation to help single-parent families, to increase wages for mothers who depend on day care to allow them to work, and to eliminate the abuse and harassment of women. Concerning the recent conviction of former President Moshe Katsav for rape and sexual assault, Talia was quoted in Israeli newspapers as saying that “the punishment handed out to Katsav was appropriate to the severity of the actions, and it sends a message that those in positions of power are not immune from receiving such punishments.” The members of Na’amat USA have much to be proud of regarding the bold restructuring program and the positive results of the past year, as we take on the responsibility of securing the organization’s future. Reports from across the country indicate increased activity in our four areas, a sincere desire to strengthen our presence through community outreach, and a renewed enthusiasm through active participation. Na’amat Israel is making preparations for celebrating its 90th year as an organization, and Na’amat USA is planning to celebrate with our sisters during the Anniversary Mission to Israel this November. I hope that many of you will be joining us for this exciting and informative look at many of the recent accomplishments of Na’amat USA as well as at historic and scenic sites (see back cover for information). The entire itinerary is available from your area office. Please plan to spend this special occasion with us. Come with your friends and family and meet Na’amat members from all over the United States and Israel — it will be an unforgettable mission!
Become a Life Member of Na’amat USA in honor of our 85th anniversary and pay only $185. This special price must be made in one payment and received in the national office between July 1 and September 30, 2011. These dues are normally $250.
I want to take advantage of the special Life Member price of $185. Name Address City/State/Zip Council/Club E-mail
Charge to my credit card. American Express
Card # Exp. Date Signature
Or make check payable to Na’amat USA, 505 Eighth Avenue, Suite 2302, New York, NY 10018.
Wish Your Friends and Family
“Shana Tova” With Na’amat USA New Year Cards
Our lovely, made-in-Israel New Year cards for 5772 are now available. The inside message reads: May the year bring you and your loved ones the blessing of health, happiness and prosperity in a world of peace. Please place your order through your council office. Non-council clubs may order through tribute card chairwomen or presidents. Order now before our limited quantity runs out.
Calling All Life Members! Na’amat USA has been serving the needs of Israel’s women and children for 85 years. Commemorate this momentous achievement by renewing your lifetime commitment to Na’amat with a special gift of $85. You will be recognized in Na’amat Woman magazine and on the Na’amat USA Web site. The families helped by Na’amat Israel thank you! Please send check or credit card information to Na’amat USA, 505 Eighth Ave., Suite 2302, New York, NY 10018.
Circle of Hope Donors Na’amat USA is grateful to the following for their
generosity. Thank you for helping at-risk Israeli teenagers achieve scholastic success and personal growth in Na’amat technological high schools. One ($1,600) or More
Celebrate the 85th anniversary of Na’amat USA by becoming a Patron of the
Child Development Fund
This fund was established as a living tribute to our beloved Golda, head of our organization in the early 1930s. It serves as a direct contribution to the love of her life: the children of Israel. The names of the Golda Fund donors, or their loved ones, are permanently inscribed on a beautiful plaque in Bet Hachavera in Jerusalem. Donors will receive an exquisite, engraved glass sculpture. The Golda Meir Child Development Fund is used to provide quality day care for the challenged children, mostly from distressed families, in Na’amat ’s multipurpose day care centers. Here they experience love, security, educational and social enrichment, and counseling. Pledges to the Golda Meir Child Development Fund are $5,000, payable over a two-year period in cash, by credit card, or with State of Israel Bonds. Quota credit will be given. This is the first fund-raising campaign authorized by Golda’s family to carry her name.
Yes, I would like to become a Patron of the Golda Meir Child Development Fund.
In honor of Annette Beezy
Evelyn Mady Hopkins Trust
In honor of Annabel & Manny Lindenbaum
In memory of Louis Schwed
Card No._ ________________________________________ Expiration Date_____________
St. Louis Council Others Joseph Tuetzer
Send your new address to our new address! Na’amat USA 505 Eighth Avenue, Suite 2302 New York, NY 10018 or e-mail to email@example.com. Please include your old address and membership ID number.
■ Enclosed is my check for ____$5,000 ____$2,500 (I’ll pay the balance next year.) ■ Please charge my credit card: __VISA __MASTERCARD __AMEX
■ I hereby pledge $5,000 to the Golda Meir Child Development Fund. ■ Please send additional information on the Golda Fund. Name________________________________________ Phone No._____________________ Address_ ____________________________________________________________________ City/State/Zip________________________________________________________________ Club/Council________________________________ E-mail___________________________ Please make checks payable to Na’amat USA, 505 Eighth Ave., Suite 2302, New York, NY 10018.
Anniversary Mission to Israel
Be part of this exciting event! November 6-17, 2011
Celebrate the 90th anniversary of Na’amat Israel and our partnership with our Na’amat sisters when we meet in Israel next fall. This festive and informative trip will include special visits to Na’amat facilities, amazing sightseeing, gala dinners, and gatherings with Na’amat leaders and members.
Mission Package Includes:
• Deluxe accommodations: 2 nights at Tel Aviv Sheraton, 2 nights at the Galei Kinneret in Tiberias, 4 nights at the Inbal in Jerusalem, 2 nights at the Sheraton in Tel Aviv. • Meals: Israeli buffet breakfast daily; welcome dinner; 2 dinners in Tiberias; Friday night dinner; dinner at Tel Aviv restaurant; farewell dinner. • Eight days of sightseeing in air-conditioned buses with guides; entrance fees to sites. Among the many places we’ll visit: archaeological sites, Rosh Pina artists’ studios, shopping in markets and boutiques, several museums, a walk through Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Jerusalem’s Old City, Yad Vashem and the Knesset. • Visits to Na’amat installations: Ayanot agricultural boarding high school, Epstein Technological High School in Holon, Na’amat day center in Sderot, PRICE: $2740; dedication of a Carmiel day care center and more. single supplement $1300 • All entrance fees to sites. (land arrangements only). • All taxes and service charges as imposed by hotels.
Count me in for the 90th Anniversary Mission! Enclosed is my deposit ($200 per person) of ______ for _____ people.
Please make check payable to Na’amat USA, 505 Eighth Avenue, Suite 2302, New York, NY 10018. Name(s) as stated on passport Address City/State/Zip Council/Club E-mail This is my (our) first trip to Israel.
I wish to book a single room.
My roommate is For details, contact the national office: 212-563-5222; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.