I was invited to WIZO Holland to be present at the AGM, when beloved President Joyce Numann- Durlacher stepped down from her office, after 12 years as President of the Federation. The invitation also said that "your presence, as the highest representative of World WIZO, would be highly valued by Joyce….. She will be most honoured to receive the Woman of Valour pin from you". WIZO Holland added that my mission was a surprise for Joyce and to be kept a secret.
This was actually the second secret I shared with WIZO Holland. During my mission last year, I was asked to write to The Civil Honours Advisory Commission in the Netherlands to recommend that Mrs. Joyce Numann- Durlacher, President of WIZO Holland be considered as a recipient of an Honourary Royal Award. Joyce received a Royal Award and it was to be bestowed upon her by the Mayor of The Hague at a special event after the AGM.
As everyone except Joyce knew I would be coming, when she arrived I was asked to hide and wait for Ernst's sign. These photos show the very emotional moment we shared. When I appeared. Joyce burst into tears of excitement and joy "You came last year, and I couldn't imagine you coming again this year" she finally managed to say. We all spent a lovely evening – wonderful food and fantastic company.
On Saturday 30 June 2018, Margriet picked me up, and as I had seen some of the highlights last year, I asked to see one of Holland's symbols- windmills. We drove to a location about 30 minutes outside Amsterdam to the open Windmill Museum and encountered the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen., I will let the photo reflect the beauty I saw.
After a brief rest at the hotel, I was taken to Margriet's home at 6 pm by Hetty, for an informal home made Indonesian dinner, and to meet the new WIZO Holland Executive -: Michaja Wiener (proposed as new president), Stefanie Richheimer., Margriet Kotek, Orly Polak, Hetty Stibbe and Belia van Gelder (the Federation Secretary). Joyce also attended. The weather was relatively warm for Europe, so we were able to sit outside on the patio.
In advance I had been asked to prepare a ‘mini workshop’ about WIZO to help familiarise the new Executives with our work, our projects, the social reality and security situation and their effect on our work, etc.. It was a very interactive evening with the new Executives (all professionals aged between 41-51) curious to learn as much as they could. Joyce and Margriet added from their WIZO experience on the national level, so that they got a very comprehensice review. I wished them much success and satisfation. On Sunday 1st July , the day of WIZO Holland's AGM, Margriet picked me up from the hotel and took me to the CIDI Centre in The Hague where the administrative part of the AGM took place. At 12:00, as the first session was in Dutch, I was taken to the Maurisuis Museum where I was mesmerized by Johannes Vermeer's famous oil painting. The Girl with the Pearl Earring. In 2006, the Dutch public selected it as the most beautiful painting in the Netherlands.
I was taken back to the CIDI Centre at 13:30 pm. Then Joyce formally stepped down and the new president of WIZO Holland (Michaja Wiener) took over. Debby Kater said a short thank you to Joyce from the "old board" and then, I presented Joyce with "A Woman of Valour" pin, and a Rebecca Sieff Certificate. I also presented her with a statue of Jerusalem from World WIZO and its Federations for her lifelong service to WIZO. After having worked together for so many years, we were both quite overwhelmed.
We then walked over to the Portuguese Synagogue for the Award Giving Ceremony and I was asked to speak about WIZO. Although of smaller scale, it is similar to the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam, the craftsmanship of the woodwork is breathtaking – especially aron hakodesh and the bimah. Around the building, there are numerous offices and Jewish institutions. The synagogue is splendid and sitting in it, you can feel the long line of generations smiling down on you. As you can see the synagogue was packed to full capacity. HE Aviv Shir-On Israel's Ambassador to Holland took part in the proceedings.
At 3 pm, Michaja Michaja Wiener welcomed every one and introduced the afternoon programme. As Joyce is known for her love of music – much of the programme, and tribute to her from the Federation, was music related.
In the invitation sent out by the Federation it said "The orchestra says goodbye to her conductor: after 12 years of chairmanship, Joyce Numann - Durlacher passes the baton and steps out of the board of WIZO Netherlands. Joyce does not leave the concert hall with a silent drum. You are cordially invited to a festive farewell program "Music Connects", led by Jules van Hessen, who will announce two very special musical guests".
It was followed by Abigail Wildshut – who won the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences (KNAW) 2017 Education Award for her paper - ":Fleeing to the world of sounds" based on the assumption that music can help achieve a better frame of mind. And help children flee trauma to the safe world of sounds. Her paper pertained to asylum seeking children but could easily apply to the children in Otef Aza. She herself is a violinist, but led us to an amusing session of Body Percussion.
Then her twin sister Noa Wildshut took to the stage. She is a protégée, who signed her first record contract at 15. She has become a much sought after violinist worldwide. She plays a violin built by Giovanni Grancini in 1714. Together with her parents and sister – they form a violin quartet. Jules and Noa have been frequently seen on stage together including in Israel in 2017. Noa and the versatile and passionate piano player Daniel Kramer played their rendition of Max Bruch's "First Violin" concerto. After the piece Joyce exchanged a few sentences with Noa.
Then I was called upon to deliver a "WIZO powerful speech" taking into account that some of the audience do not know anything about WIZO. In addition to describing our organization, projects, membership and fundraising, I was asked to speak about "the current situation in Israel (for example the current rocket attacks from Gaza)"and not the start-up nation version seen in the international media.
I spoke about the economic situation where 1 in 3 children is poor; the situation on our Northern border and that along our Southern Border and in Otef Aza. –where farmers are losing their crops to terror kites and helium balloons. WIZO Holland has a very close connection to Otef Aza and especially the children. On all her visits to Israel, Joyce would drive down to meet them, ignoring any danger to her person. Afterwards, many came up to me, thanking me for the updates as the press in Holland had not broadcasted anything. i would like to thank Marion Aldhadeff who translated for me throughout the afternoon session.
Then came a very special moment. When Mayor Pauline Krikke from The Hague bestowed upon Joyce a royal award for her dedication. The Mayor praised Joyce and I was so proud that many parts of her speech were from the recommendation letter I sent the Civil Honours Advisory Commission. The Mayor is a very intelligent and caring Lady, and very very tall.
Joyce Numan Durlacher, President of WIZO Holland, Receieves a Royal Award and a Surprise
As you can see the WIZO pin and Royal Dutch award complement each other. Later that evening I bestowed upon Ernst, Joyce's husband, a MIZO pin.
As a farewell present from the Federation, money was collected and a donation made in Joyce's name, for music equipment for the WIZO Beit Hakerem School. A plaque honouring Joyce will be hung in the music room. Debby Kater and Judith Cohn handed Joyce the certificate of the present. Joyce said a few words in between tears of joy and then we went to another room for a brief reception and then on to Joyce's home for yet another surprise. Without her knowledge, Ernst Joyce's husband had arranged an Italian Buffet at their home, and had the whole family waiting there. Of course Joyce was surprised and very impressed by her husband's efforts. Seeing her with her personal family and her WIZO family, reminded me that without the support of family, friends and colleagues none of us would be able to carry out our duties with such conviction and passion, as they allow us to.
I am so happy that I shared that special day with Joyce and her family and her Federation. Another special moment for me was, when one of the new WIZO Holland Executives came and asked me to meet her very first MIZO man. I would like to thank, Margriet, Hettie, Evelyn, Deby, Marion and Belia for arranging such an amazing tribute to Joyce and for asking me to be part of it.
Esther Mor, President, World WIZO, July 2018
(Photos courtesy of Esther Mor)