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My WIZO Experience

  • Writing from the Heart: My WIZO Experience Writing from the Heart: My WIZO Experience
    Written by

    How does one sum up three years of working - and living - WIZO in a short essay? It's a tough assignment, but I'll try.

    When I joined WIZO, on New Years Day 2018, I had never been to a WIZO day care center, I didn't know what a youth village was, and I certainly never imagined I'd set foot in a women's shelter - let alone two! - but I got to do all that and much, much more.

    My WIZO Experiences: From Fashion Models to Role Models

    Through WIZO, I celebrated the Bar and Bat Mitzvah of underprivileged WIZO youth at the kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem, I joined dozens of women on a march through Tel Aviv to protest domestic violence, and I snapped photos as Israel's top fashion models visited one of WIZO's women's shelters.

    I witnessed Ethiopian children at the WIZO Pardes Katz branch model clothing from the branch's bigudit (second-hand) store as photography students from the prestigious Shenkar College of Engineering and Design snapped their beautiful smiles for a school photo exhibit. I was inspired by the teenage girls in WIZO Israel's Otzma Tzeira empowerment program (including the first ever Druze group) and "Ha'nivcheret" a WIZO leadership course for Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) women.

    I proudly wrote about WIZO and its activites not only for the WIZO website and Facebook page, but also for The Jerusalem Post and The Jerusalem Post International and on The Times of Israel. To understand the organization better, I interviewed World WIZO's leadership (including the Chairperson and the President), met WIZO's amazing volunteers both within Israel and from the international federations, and made heartfelt lifelong connections with WIZO's dedicated workers across its vast network of projects.

    Leading with your Heart

    I think the most important thing I learned from my three years at WIZO is to lead with your heart. My late father used to say, "Do not look at Israel with your eyes, see it with your heart!" The same applies with WIZO. For 100 years WIZO has been leading with its heart. It is the heart of WIZO's volunteers in Israel and around the globe that has made and continues to make a life changing difference for children, youth and women in Israel for a century.

    In my first year at WIZO on "Good Deeds Day" I joined my Chairperson Tricia Schwitzer in pitching in at a WIZO day care center in Rehovot. We played with the children, ate lunch with them and by the time they were put down for a nap, I was ready to take a nap too. At one point during playtime the children started calling me "Abba" (daddy) as they were not used to having an adult male in the center. A few weeks later I ran into Liz, the director of the center, at WIZO's headquarters in Tel Aviv, she asked when I was returning, the children loved me so much. It melted my heart.

    It's the same "heart" of WIZO I experience every time I visit any WIZO project. The image of WIZO Hadassim Youth Village Director Zeev Twitto greeting me so warmly whenever I visit is just one example. When I show up to work at WIZO on a "regular" day (no day at WIZO is really "regular") and the guard at the front door is happy to see me, when coworkers and volunteers alike greet me with cries of "Yonatan!" it confirms I am in the right place - I am home. It is that "WIZO Heart" that connects us. Tricia has often reminded me that when I simply write about a WIZO topic it comes out "good", but when I really  put my heart into it, it is "outstanding"! I believe that will be my challenge as I move on to my next job, to always put my heart into everything I do.

    Fan or Player?

    But what is to become of my relationship with WIZO? Even when I am at my new job, I pledge to remain a loyal supporter of WIZO. But after all I've experienced over the last three years, is that really enough?

    Since I love sports and sport metaphors, I'll conclude with this one: The Lubavitcher Rebbe once said: ‘Don’t be a spectator; be a player.’ Don’t just sit on the sidelines and offer instructions, advice, and criticism to everybody else. Go down personally onto the field and take part in the game because you’re a member of the team that’s playing. Take responsibility for the final score. And once you are a player instead of a spectator, you will be able to make other spectators – that is, uninvolved Jews - into players, too, which is the main job of every one of us today.

    For three years I was a dedicated 'player' for Team WIZO. My challenge going forward is to not revert to just being a loyal "fan", but to remain a "player". How does one do that? All I need to do is take a cue from the hundreds of thousands of dedicated WIZO volunteers around the world. All of them are the "players" that make up "Team WIZO".

    So thank you, WIZO for three wonderful years.

    I will always be proud to be on your "team".

    Yonatan Sredni

    in My WIZO Experience
  • From Down Under to Pardes Katz Wonder: Raquel's Story From Down Under to Pardes Katz Wonder: Raquel's Story
    Written by

    My name is Raquel Ware and I grew up in South Africa. After graduating high school, I got an opportunity to move to Australia where I earned my BA and MA degrees and I now work for an award-winning advertising agency in Sydney.

    Like many young adults in their early 20's, I want to change the world. So, towards the end of last year (2019), with two weeks of work vacation approaching, I decided to use it to do volunteer education work for WIZO, an organization whose values reflect my own, and whose projects spoke to my heart.

    I flew to Israel where I was assigned to volunteer at the after-school tutoring center at WIZO Pardes Katz (located between Bnei Barak and Ramat Gan); a  program generously supported by WIZO Denmark and run by Racheli Mangoli, the iconic chairperson of WIZO Pardes Katz who established the center in 2006. 

    I vividly remember my first day at the center. At 3:30 pm the door swung open and the kids came running in smiling and hugging one another. Their body language alone communicated that they were happy to be in this safe space and excited to get to know me. From that moment on, every day with the kids was incredible since they were eager to learn and assist one another in doing so. Friendships with me were formed from the get-go. It was evident that regardless of our different upbringings, our heritage and quest for knowledge united us.

      Capture334  Capture33

    Together we did English homework and learned about our different communities. Contrary to my initial concerns, my weak Hebrew proved to be inspirational to the kids. They realized that even as an adult, I too was still learning and made mistakes. Moreover, it was uplifting to see how the children's parents also benefited from the support provided by the WIZO Pardes Katz center. Without a doubt, these facilities have changed the lives of many Ethiopian immigrants to Israel. The appreciation from the kids and their parents was heart-warming, making it an environment where you want to keep on giving. And thanks to WIZO and its generous donors and the centers dedicated volunteers, the facilities have whiteboards, maps, colourful stationary, textbooks and snacks to keep the kids engaged. For me, being actively involved, even for just a short period, was a delightful experience. Every minute spent with the kids, young adults and parents was transformed into something of infinite value.

    As Jews, we owe it not only to the children of Israel but to ourselves to educate and empower others to live to their fullest potential. My visit enabled me to see firsthand how a generation of Ethiopian immigrant children were nurtured through the after-school program to become successful adults. This program is most worthy of your support whether as an educator, a donor or, in my instance, a humble, but very grateful volunteer.

    Thank you WIZO Pardes Katz. I will be back!



    Raquel Ware

    in My WIZO Experience
  • Sukkot – One Thing? You “Nailed” It Sukkot – One Thing? You “Nailed” It
    Written by

    Spanish follows English.

    This article orignally appeared on The Times of Israel. Read the original article here.

    One of my favorite Sukkot stories is related by the former Chief Rabbi of Britian, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

    This week, in the context of my job at WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization) I attended the dedication of a brand new dormitory at one of WIZO’s youth villages, CHW Hadassim.

    The new dorm at Hadassim is home to 27 high school students in the Naaleh program, Jewish youth from around the world who come to study and live in Israel. Thanks to the great generosity of the Reich family of Germany along with the support of WIZO Germany, these precious international students can study in a nurturing environment in the best possible conditions.

    Image may contain: 14 people, people smiling, people standing and outdoor

    Image may contain: 21 people, including Rivka Lazovsky, people smiling

    Image may contain: people sitting and indoor

    I noticed that a number of times during the dedication ceremony the speakers made made reference to WIZO Hadassim’s slogan, “Ba’ta le’Hadassim, ba’ta ha’baiyta”, meaning, “When you’ve come to Hadassim, you’ve come home.

    In fact, today was the birthday of Hadassim’s wonderful director Zeev Twitto. In wishing him a happy birthday this morning I added that whenever I come to Hadassim and he greets me with his trademark warm smile, I too feel that I have come home, just like the school slogan says.

    It’s not hard to draw parallels between the upcoming holiday of Sukkot and a dedication of a new dormitory for overseas students. The sukkah is a temporary structue that serves as our home away from home for the week of the holiday, while the dormitory is a permanent structure that serves as a warm home for these inspiring young students who come from around the globe to live and study in Israel.

    But I believe there is more to it than that. At the dedication cermony many concepts were talked about: feeling at home, feeling safe, a warm and nurturing enviornment, a school/youth village that is also a community, building a future for Jewish youth from around the world in Israel and much, much more.

    So what is it? What is the one “nail” that holds together these young students who come to live and study in Israel? Which of the themes discussed above keeps their home, their sukkah/dormitory, standing in the face of obstacles?

    To me the answer comes from one scene from the 1991 movie City Slickers starring Billy Crystal.

    In the film, Curly was the tough old cowboy character played by the late Jack Palance. Here’s the scene from the movie where Curly espouses his life philosophy to Mitch, Billy Crystal’s character:

    Curly has a point. According to the story Rabbi Sacks told the lone “nail” represents faith, but to someone else it can represent something else. For each and every person, the “one thing” is different.

    The same can be true for the meaning of “home”. For some of the students in the new dormitory at WIZO Hadassim it might mean a bright colorful spacious place for them to live. For other students the “one thing” ut might be the support of the dorm counselor or living with their friends from around the world. For each person the “nail” , the “one thing” that connects them to their “home” (new home) is different.

    On Sukkot it does not matter if we live in a house, an apartment, or in a dormitory with 26 other international students. For one week we all join together, dwell together in our sukkot, in the temporary outdoor structures that remind us that we are in this together, under the same roof (schach). We’ve all come home.

    Chag Sameach!

    (Photo credits: Kfir Sivan & Yonatan Sredni)

    Del blog de Yonatan Sredni -The Times of Israel

    Sukkot- One thing? You “nailed” it

    Traducido por: Rackel Alfille

    Esta semana, en el contexto de mi trabajo en WIZO (Women International Zionist Organization), asistí a la inauguración de un nuevo dormitorio en una de las aldeas juveniles de WIZO, Hadassim

    El nuevo dormitorio en Hadassim es el hogar de 27 estudiantes de secundaria en el programa Naaleh, donde jóvenes judíos de todo el mundo vienen a estudiar y a vivir a Israel.

    Gracias a la generosidad de la familia Reich de Alemania junto con el apoyo de WIZO Alemania, estos maravillosos estudiantes internacionales pueden estudiar en un ambiente acogedor en las mejores condiciones posibles.

    Image may contain: 14 people, people smiling, people standing and outdoor

    Image may contain: 21 people, including Rivka Lazovsky, people smiling

    Image may contain: people sitting and indoor

    Noté que varias veces durante la ceremonia de inauguración los oradores hicieron referencia al lema de WIZO Hadassim, “ Ba´ta le Hadassim, ba’ta ha bayta”, que significa: “Cuando has venido a Hadassim, has llegado a casa”.

    No es difícil establecer paralelismos entre el próximo viernes de Sucot y la inauguración de un nuevo dormitorio de estudiantes extranjeros. La Sukka es una estructura temporal que sirve como nuestro hogar lejos de casa durante la semana de la fiesta, mientras que el dormitorio es una estructura permanente que sirve como un hogar cálido para estos jóvenes estudiantes inspiradores que vienen de todo el mundo a vivir y estudiar en Israel.

    Pero creo que hay más que eso. En la ceremonia de inauguración se habló de muchos conceptos: sentirse en casa, sentirse seguro, un ambiente cálido y acogedor, una escuela y una aldea juvenil que también es una comunidad que construye un futuro para la juventud judía de todo el mundo en Israel y mucho, mucho más.

    Entonces, ¿qué es? ¿Cuál es la “uña” que mantiene unidos a estos jóvenes estudiantes que vienen a vivir y estudiar en Israel? ¿Cuál de los temas discutidos anteriormente mantiene su hogar, su Sukkah / dormitorio, parado de pie frente a los obstáculos?

    Para mí, la respuesta proviene de una escena de la película de 1991 “City Slickers” con Billy Crystal. En la película Curly, representa al duro personaje de vaquero interpretado por el difunto Jack Palance. Aquí está la escena de la película en la que Curly expone su filosofía de vida al personaje de Mitch, Billy Crystal:

    Para algunos de los estudiantes en el dormitorio de WIZO Hadassim, podría significar un lugar amplio, brillante y colorido para que vivan.

    Para otros estudiantes, "la uña" podría ser el apoyo del consejero del dormitorio para vivir con sus amigos de todo el mundo. Para cada persona “la uña”, es lo único que los conecta a su “hogar” (nuevo hogar) es diferente.

    En Sukkot no importa si vivimos en una casa, un departamento o un dormitorio con otros 26 estudiantes internacionales. Durante una semana, todos se unen, viven juntos en nuestras sukkot, en las estructuras temporales al aire libre que nos recuerdan que estamos juntos en esto, bajo el mismo techo (schach).

    Todos hemos vuelto a casa.

    Chag Sameaj!

    (Photo credits: Kfir Sivan & Yonatan Sredni)

    in My WIZO Experience
  • Sisterhood in a 'man's world': An AVIV's Perspective of the Intl. Women’s Day Conference at the European Union Parliament Sisterhood in a 'man's world': An AVIV's Perspective of the Intl. Women’s Day Conference at the European Union Parliament
    Written by

    All my life I dreamed of attending a seminar or conference on women’s rights and empowerment at the prestigious European Union building in Brussels. WIZO made that dream come true. 

    Now that I live in Belgium, and as an AVIV representative, I had the honour of attending the WIZO Belgium -Luxembourg International Women’s Day Conference in Brussels at the European Union Parliament on the 15th of March 2019 as part of the WIZO Antwerp delegation.

    The theme of the event was ‘Success as a Woman’.

    Varda Cywie, President WIZO Belgium - Luxemburg and her committee, organized the event. Over 70 women attended the event from all social and cultural circles of Belgium, including a fascinating panel of women of success, including World WIZO Chairperson Prof. Rivka Lazovsky.  Other WIZO leaders joined us from our European federations, including Ronit Ribak Madari - Chairperson of WIZO UK, Diana Paola Lévy - President of WIZO France, and Nicole Faktor - President of WIZO Germany

    eu parliment 3

    World WIZO Chairperson Prof. Rivka Lazovsky (far right) with the WIZO Representatives at the European Parliament

    I was deeply moved by the topics of the day, especially as a young woman trying to balance life in all aspects of being a woman, in what is currently mostly ‘a man’s world.’ 

    Some of the highlights were, meeting the lovely WIZO women and representatives from various EU and the UK federations. The atmosphere was warm, friendly and supportive, with a deep sense of sisterhood. 

    Most important were the messages that came through during the panel discussions.

    As an AVIV, I took the following points away from the overall theme of ‘success as a woman’: 

    1. To keep sight of the WIZO vision, agenda and mission, and as a WIZO AVIV to be aware at all times of the reasons we do what we do. The vision, agenda, and mission, guide us in all our WIZO AVIV endeavors. Namely fundraising, education, lobbying, legislation, legal aid, women’s rights, social care, social development, gender-based violence support, prevention, treatment and care for victims and perpetrators; and in general, improved broader social development for Israel. 

    2. We discussed being a successful woman in a ‘mans world’, and that it can be achieved through resilience, perseverance and the correct balance and support within the workplace and home environments.

    3. Psychologically, success as a woman was examined. What was clear from the discussion was that a woman’s awareness, sense of connection, self-care and balance between professional and home life is subjective and is driven by what motivates us as individual women.

    4. Women of all ages, especially during our reproductive years, can be mothers and professionals when we choose to challenge the status quo and existing gender biases in the professional and home settings

    We all learned a huge amount and the day ended with new connections having been made and ideas being exchanged. It was a wonderful event! 

    I would like to thank Varda Cywie, President WIZO Belgium - Luxemburg, as well as Nathalie Miodownik, President of WIZO Antwerp for taking me under their wing. 

    marie and

    Marië Joshua-Querido (right) with WIZO Antwerp President Nathalie Miodownik 


    Marië Joshua-Querido

    WIZO Belgium-Luxembourg AVIV

    in My WIZO Experience