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The Aviv Experience at the 26th World WIZO EGM

The newly appointed Aviv (WIZO's younger generation of leaders) representative to the World WIZO Executive shares her thoughts and feelings on a week full of moving, exciting and memorable moments.

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Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Erica Saubermann Alem, and I am the new Aviv Representative to the World WIZO Executive. I am a Brazilian conference interpreter living in Rio de Janeiro, mother of the two most beautiful children in the world (aren’t we all?).

I went to Israel in 2012 for the Aviv Seminar and my life was changed. I learned so much, met so many interesting people who came from all over the world, and yet were just like me: Chaverot who cared about Israel and its people. Those were my sisters I just hadn’t met!

This is what I see as my job, too – to bring together all of those sisters who just haven’t met yet (and some who have!). To get them to support each other, share their successes and failures, help each other out!

If you are an Aviv or want help in bringing more Avivs to your federation, please send me an e-mail at esauber@gmail.com and let’s talk! I look forward to hearing from you!

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WIZO Hadassim has this perfect spot for a WIZO Selfie!

 

This is what you missed if you couldn’t make it to the 26th World WIZO EGM which convened in January 2016 at the Hilton Tel Aviv:

This EGM started off with a bang – a Leadership workshop just for Avivs.We all sat down to get to know one another and to learn more about our strengths and weaknesses, and how to utilize them for our work. It was very dynamic, and we all left feeling that we had learned something important and useful.

After a short break, it was party time! Avivs were special guests at Otzarin, a charming and welcoming restaurant with a delicious buffet of Mediterranean food. We ate, chatted and danced the night away, stopping only for a basket-weaving workshop full of stories and intuitive readings. And this was only the beginning!

 

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Ronit Ribak Madari, Laurienne Baitz (former Aviv representatives to World WIZO Executive) and me having delicious Turkish coffee at Otzarin

 

On Monday the EGM was officially opened, giving us the opportunity to meet some of the amazing women who work in Israel and around the world for our organization. It was great seeing all those women together, with the common goal of helping those in need and working to improve the status of women in the Israeli society. We listened to an inspiring talk by Adi Altschuler, Google for Education Manager, Israel and social entrepreneur from a very young age. She told us about the creation and development of Krembo Wings, a youth movement for children with special needs, and of Memories@Home, a project to turn Holocaust Remembrance Day into something more intimate and meaningful by having people host meetings and discussions in their homes.

The day progressed with one inspiring talk after the other, learning from women who were determined to fight for their voice to be heard. A particularly poignant moment was when we followed the example of Paralympic rower Moran Samuel joining her in a spontaneous singing of Hatikva, just as she did when she unexpectedly won a rowing competition and the organizers were unprepared and didn't have a recording of our beautiful anthem.

In the evening at the official opening ceremony we were greeted by outgoing World WIZO President. Tova Ben Dov and Chairperson to the World WIZO Executive, Prof. Rivka Lazovsky. The night ended with most Avivs dancing on the stage and having a ball!

Tuesday was touring day, and eleven buses left the hotel to visit different WIZO Daycare Centers and Youth Villages. I cannot stress how important these visits are to our work. We know that the money we send help support children with special needs or teach skills to a teenager, but it is when we get a toothy smile or a shy bye-bye that we really understand the value of what we do. I spent the better part of one visit playing games with two-year-olds who wanted me to put a pot on my head and – oops – let it fall. I forgot to take pictures and didn’t see all of the facilities. I did, however, leave a piece of my heart there, and have returned home bursting with motivation to do more, achieve more, BE more!

We had lunch at a WIZO youth village and were joined by some of the teens who live there. Once again, being able to ask them about their hopes and struggles, to laugh together and bond... those are the moments that you carry with you for a long time, and they are the very best fuel to our WIZO fire.

All groups congregated for a ceremony at the Kotel, which in itself is a moving experience. But being blessed by the Chief Rabbi of the Kotel in a room underneath the plaza, inside tunnels that take you right back in time? We sang together, all the songs we could think of, expressing our joy and our love for Israel, and felt once again that we are truly sisters!

 

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To end this incredible day, Jana Falic Co-President WIZO USA and her husband hosted the entire EGM delegation for dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in Jerusalem. The food was delicious, and we were touched by Miriam’s story, an Israeli mother who, having lost her two sons in battle, can still find the strength to go on and move others.

Kobi Peretz made a surprise appearance and women from all over the world got up to dance (and scream and shout!).

On Wednesday we learned about the economic challenges faced by Israel and celebrated the appointment of new World WIZO Honorary Members before having an impromptu Aviv meeting in the lobby. It was a great opportunity to discuss the week's events and to talk about what our hopes and expectations. We set up a Whatsapp group as a first step in bringing us closer to one another and a platform to share our difficulties and successes. Please join us in this group and on our Facebook page!

We were then presented with a choice of five workshops to improve our skills. I took Fleur Hassan-Nahoum’s “Effective Messaging and Communication” and can only hope that I have another chance to learn from her, as it was incredibly useful and fun! Other topics ranged from Fundraising to Digital Media, and Avivs came away ready to apply their new skills.

The afternoon  program included a choice between various Committees sessions of the different World WIZO Divisions. At the Organization & Tourism Division Committee I learned about the new project entitled “Caring for the Future”. A detailed program to introduce WIZO to youngsters from 12 to 31 years of age at different stages of their lives was very well received and once completed, will become the responsibility mostly of Avivs around the world. This will allow us to really work hard and introduce WIZO to the younger generations, planting the seed for them to become the next Avivs. Let’s work together and make it happen!

We then had an inspiring presentation by Sharon Tal, the designer responsible for the return of Maskit, legendary Israeli couture house. After an incredible presentation, with volunteers modelling some outfits, we all got the chance to visit our very own Maskit Pop-up Store and try some of their beautiful clothes. And because this was a fun and somewhat early night, several groups went out for dinner and talk. Tel Aviv has options for any cravings you might have, but where else could I get the most delicious falafel??

Sadly, all things come to an end, and Thursday was the last day of the EGM. There were still pretty amazing presentations, such as an Overview of Israel’s Security by Moshe Ya’alon, Minister of Defense. The Closing Session introduced the new Executive for the first time – including me! – and welcomed, among others, our new WIZO President Esther Mor.

Last but not least, we had a Tribute to Tova, who has devoted more than 50 years of her life to WIZO and inspired so many of us. It was a touching night, filled with messages of thanks and love, and we have all promised to continue with her legacy.  It was also a night of goodbyes, as most would be leaving in the morning – but a night of new beginnings, promises to keep in touch and help each other out, to visit and write.

 

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Janine Gelley and I celebrated the new Executive

 

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The Brazilian Delegation at the Tribute to Tova

 

We leave Israel knowing that we must work harder than ever for the women and children that need our help. We also know, now more than ever, that our sisters all over the world are working as hard as we are and counting on us, and we will not let them down!