WIZO in Panama was founded in 1926/27 within a Jewish Community that barely had 200-300 members. The small WIZO group struggled on, was reorganized in 1933, and ceased to function altogether by 1937. In 1941, a handful of women formed a WIZO group again in Panama. Most of these ladies arrived to Panama from England and were influenced by the Zionism movement .taking place at the time. The first registered WIZO president is Rita Chaviri.
During World War II, ladies of the community would go to the ships passing through the Panama Canal to give out parcels of clothing, food, and medicines to the Holocaust survivors coming through Panama, but unable to stay. After the war in 1945, Mrs. Helen Borenstein, who survived the persecution by working and hiding her identity, and who later became Honorary President, played a most important role in the history of WIZO Panama. With persistence and dedicated work, she strengthened the foundations of the WIZO Federation, giving the organization its proper orientation, which to date, remains unwaivered. In 1958 WORLD WIZO Emissary, Rosita Goldstein from Argentina assisted to organize a number of young women into an Aviv group.
Upon the death of Mrs. Borenstein, the chaverot of her group changed their name to WIZO Helen Borenstein to honor her memory. WIZO grew with new groups and new names, and a WIZO EXECUTIVE was created in 1986, and Joyce Bassan was the first elected Executive President of WIZO Panama.
WIZO has become a significant and relevant force in the life of the Jewish community in Panama and provides a structure in which Jewish women of all generations work together for the State of Israel.
Part of WIZO’s work is to involve the students of the Jewish Schools. At Bat Mitzvah age a first introduction about WIZO is giving in their Bat Mitzvah ceremony program where the Executive President makes a speech and gives the Benot Mitzvah a pin with the WIZO insignia together with the name of their school. In the last three years of High School WIZO works and with the girls through activities and meetings, At the High School Graduation Ceremony in both Jewish schools, the Helen Borenstein Medal of Leadership is bestowed upon the graduate who showed outstanding work within WIZO objectives during her High School years. As a result of this training WIZO NOAR group born, made up of High School and University students, and who are very active.
“Yearly Bazaar” which usually takes place before the Jewish holidays, where one can buy from an array of
products, and at the same time promote businesses of the community, many of which are home based.
Fashion Shows: featuring evening gowns, children’s clothing and jewelry worn by our very own WIZO
models, and own designers.
Tasting Lunch: where our members exhibited their succulent recipes. these recipes were all compiled in a
booklet. The lunch always is in honor or memory of different ladies of the community sponsored by the
family, the booklet also included the best recipes of the honored lady.
Art Auction: Sarie Hanono and Atid groups presented their Latin American Exhibition and Art Sale at the
Hebrew Cultural and Charity Center. Over 1000 invitations were send out, each with a CD sample some of
the art works for sale and posters and flyers advertising the event were distributed to every WIZO group in
Sponsor a Child Campaign: our Campaign is a success; sponsors grow in number from year to year
Initiation of new members
Poker Night in Purim
WIZO is also involved in the local life of the Panamanian community through social activities we carry out during the year to help others in need, Through the David Copperfield Foundation, Project Magic Program is a noteworthy activity by a group of dedicated and trained ladies who teach handicapped children to do magic while improving their coordination.
Latin American Congress
The XII WIZO Latin American Congress took place between 18-21 May, the name of the Congress was “Israel, Diaspora and WIZO -- Links in a Chain”. The Congress was a total success and counted with delegations of Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay, Venezuela, USA New York and USA Miami.
The agenda includes different personalities of our society and the foreigner with topics like WIZO - A Light of Hope, Being a Jewish Woman in the Diaspora Committed to Israel and WIZO, Importance of Jewish Education in Modern Life, Effects of the International Financial Crisis, Sharing Successful Ideas, Durban II and much more. After three days each one of the participants went enriched and inspired of this coexistence of WIZO women.
Helena Glaser, President World WIZO, travel to Panama to attend the congress. Share these days and listen her words was motivated for all of us, Helena is a very special person and we want to thank her for all its accurate advice and cooperation for the accomplishment of Congress.
Also we counted with the presence and support of Sylvie Pelossof, Chairperson Department of Organization and Education, World WIZO and Ahuva Koren, Director of the Department of Organization and Education, World WIZO.
We want to thank all the chaverot who came to attend the congress.