The Blog


An Interview with Hava Bugajer-Gleitman, President of WIZO Austria

Dr. Hava Bugajer-Gleitman answers questions about her beginnings with WIZO, tireless activity and the unique role of a WIZO federation president in Austria. 

June 11, 2017


Dr. Hava Bugajer-Gleitman


How did you first become familiar with WIZO? How long have you been involved?

I have been on WIZO's mailing list since the 1980s, but was not an active member. I was approached by Rita Dauber to host a WIZO fundraising event featuring the Mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai and his wife, who were on an official visit to Vienna. That was approximately 15 years ago. Then, step by step, I got more involved. While on a visit to Vienna, Brenda Katten, who was chair of the "Public Affairs & NGO" department of WIZO, persuaded me to run for election as president of WIZO Austria.

How long have you been president of WIZO Austria?

Twelve years.


Hava Bugajer at an Addiction & Gender Event

What are your daily and basic activities as a WIZO volunteer

On a daily basis I plan and coordinate all of the activities of WIZO Austria, together with the executive committee, which meets once or twice a month. Before major activities, like a gala, we meet more frequently.

My personal duties include:

  • maintaining contacts with members and sponsors, including holiday greetings, as well as with World WIZO in Israel and the Israeli embassy in Austria.
  • representing WIZO in public, before the local Jewish community, at the embassy and elsewhere.
  • maintaining contact with other Zionist and Israel-related organizations including executive work for ECWF up untill recently.  
  • writing and forwarding of reports about all activities, especially for younger-generation audiences
  • participating in international activities at the UN in Vienna (committees, side events, NGOs, etc.) and elsewhere, if needed, including conferences and lectures.

What do you feel are your greatest successes as federation president?

I succeeded in putting WIZO "on the map" of Jewish, civil society and NGO life in Austria. When I started as president, WIZO was known only by a fraction of Jewish society, and as "those women who meet for coffee and cakes". 

At present WIZO is a respected women's organization, known for its activities in Austria and around the world. WIZO's political and social activities for Israel, for women's rights and for young people are known. Because of its reputation and impact, WIZO is often invited to participate in cultural and political initiatives. The Austrian Embassy in Israel is also familiar with us and our projects in Israel and it has started to include visits to WIZO projects in the official program of Austrian politicians and VIPs visiting Israel. 

What is your most memorable WIZO moment?

There are so many! One of them is definitely when we celebrated the 90th anniversary of WIZO in Austria and founded Young WIZO. Another was the visit to the WIZO Austria daycare center in Rehovot after finishing the first part of its renovation, meeting the children and listening to a father who told us how happy he was because somebody cares about them, the residents of the poorest neighborhood in Rehovot.

What is your "message" as a WIZO federation president?

Give back and do your best, using all skills and resources you are lucky to possess. Keep your curiosity, do not lose your hope and dreams and never accept "no" for an answer. Pass on your dreams and hopes to young people, give them attention and the chance to develop their activities and personalities and praise them. Last but not least "Send your bread over the water," a quote from Ecclesiastes.

Who are some of your female role models?

Marie Curie, Dr. Vera Weizmann, Raya Jaglom, Lea Rabin, Catherine Deneuve, Margaret Thatcher, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.


About the federation:

Give us some background/history about WIZO in your country..

WIZO Austria was founded in 1921 during the 2nd WIZO conference in Carlsbad. Within several years, WIZO's activities covered all major cities of Austria. WIZO Austria counted several thousands of members between 1921 and 1938 and the "Young WIZO Miriam" group published a magazine that was read by young people of all neighboring countries.

The Nazi regime that came to power in 1938 put an end to WIZO Austria. WIZO Austria was re-established after WWII and it has slowly grown ever since. These days we have more than 400 members and many friends.

WIZO Ball17

The recent WIZO Austria Ball 2017

What is the most interesting project that your federation organized in the past year?

We convinced the director of the Vienna State Opera to organize a benefit concert with four singers from Israel who are singing at the Vienna State Opera. We used the donations we received, for the "Mahut" project at the technological school in Rehovot, to commemorate the former president of the Austrian Parliament Barbara Prammer, who passed away in the midst of her activities. We invited the present President of the Austrian parliament, Doris Bures to unveil the plaque in her memory. Since that visit Doris Bures, who was not involved with Israel before, became a friend.

UN Olivetree2

WIZO Olive Trees Exhibit at the UN in Vienna

What keeps your federation busy these days in terms of activities?

Activities like the WIZO Ball, an event featuring the comedian Mark Meier, the Olive Tree Exhibition at the UN in Vienna, a side event  to the Commission on Narcotics at the UN in Vienna, the annual conference on gender specific medicine (WIZO is a founding member) - all of these events were held in March 2017. That same month I attended the UNESCO conference on bioethics in Limassol. It was a very busy month!

WIZO Austria will hold an Israel Independence Day event and participate in a Jewish street fair in May 2017. Also in May, we will participate at the ECWF meeting in Milan (where we give a report about our activities) and immediately thereafter will hold, at a WHO (World Health Organization) meeting in Geneva, an event on "Emergency Situations Around the Globe - Where Does the Medical Help End", in partnership with the NGO representatives of WIZO in Geneva and the Israeli Mission. 

What is your dream/plan for the near future and distant future for your federation?

For the near future, WIZO Austria hopes to get more young women involved. For the long term, we'd like WIZO to flourish once again in Austrian cities besides Vienna. Furthermore we would like to attain tax deductibility for donations to WIZO and to be able to change the Israel-focused culture of the United Nations. Finally, we ask heaven to send us some big donors!

What are your federation's biggest challenges or weaknesses?

We are a small federation situated in a small Jewish community of 8,000 members, out of which less than 1,000 are involved in Israel activities. Many are anti-Zionists. We have no "backyard", no resources and still - we make the most of it.

How do you think your local Jewish community's qualities and needs differ from others around the world?

Our tiny federation cannot afford an office, secretary, or other expenses. We do all the work by ourselves, on a volunteer basis, and cover all of our expenses. All donations and membership fees we receive are transferred to our projects in Israel - nothing is spent in Austria! Only a few members of the original Austrian Jewish community, who survived the Holocaust, returned. The Jewish community of Austria, therefore, is "young" and without strong roots; it does not have the fortune that accumulated through many generations. In particular there is no strong tradition of donations and legacies for charity. While some older members of the community, who were Holocaust survivors, were attached to Israel, the younger generation is losing these ties and it is our duty to reach them through action and not by preaching to them.

Additional information about WIZO Austria:

At the upcoming World Health Organization event in Geneva (on May 25th) WIZO Austria hopes to demonstrate the quality, efficiency and sustainability of Israeli medical assistance around the globe. The federation will give a WIZO award for the sustainable humanitarian work of Israeli teams in different medical disciplines, which will be named after Dr. Vera Weizmann.

WIZO Austria is preparing the Olive Tree Exhibition for September in the city of Vienna and is vying for the Intercultural Dialog Award, awarded every autumn by the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Integration.

WIZO Austria is currently planning for a delegation headed by Deputy Mayor of Vienna, Renate Brauner, to visit Israel in September 2017. For the end of October, WIZO Austria is planning the visit of a famous musical star and entertainer in cooperation with the Israeli Embassy.

After finishing the renovation of its daycare center in Rehovot, this year, WIZO Austria will begin renovations on the playgrounds of its daycare center in Modi'in, with the help of the city of Vienna.

Below: Photos from (l to r): The WIZO Austria Sponsor a Child gala, the Addiction & Gender symposium and the 2017 WIZO Austria ball

WIZO Austria SponsorChild1     AddictionGender3     WIZO Ball17 Dancers