Reclaiming the comforts of home

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), one of Minneapolis Jewish Federation’s overseas partners, helps Holocaust survivors in need

Oszkár, 94, vividly remembers his Budapest childhood. Passover seders with family, singing in the synagogue choir, studying at vocational school—and the Nazis storming in and destroying all of it. Though he had dreamed of one day becoming a bank officer, the new anti-Jewish legislation turned what should have been an attainable goal into an impossible fantasy.

At 21, he was taken to two different labor camps, one run by a sadistic supervisor who forced each inmate to carry logs up a hill–logs so big each required two people to lift.

Somehow he survived.

Shortly after the war, Oszkár was fortunate to meet the love of his life, but since she passed away 20 years ago, he has lived alone in a small apartment in his hometown. His health declined in 2012 after a stroke left him with constant tremors, partial blindness and deafness, and limited mobility.

But with Federation at his side, he’s never alone.

A Holistic Approach

Oszkár is one of the approximately 4,000 Nazi victims receiving life-saving assistance from Federation partner the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)’s Hungarian office. He depends on critical medical care and home supplies, while other Hungarian Holocaust survivors receive food packages, home care, medicines, visits from social workers and more.

Direct service is just one part of JDC’s mission to assist Holocaust survivors in Hungary.

At the JCC in Budapest, the Shalom Club offers them the chance to come together for educational and social programs that also help beat isolation, like film screenings, city tours, and exercise. About 20-30 survivors participate in the monthly Eotvos social club, with many also serving as community volunteers.

It’s a holistic approach—one that reminds Holocaust survivors they have a whole Jewish community working hard to care for their needs.

“JDC makes me feel like I’m not alone,” Oszkár says.

Four Questions with David Orbuch

From the Desk of David Orbuch, President

Long journeys: as Jews, we know a little something about them. And while we may love to kvetch along the way, there’s something else we’re well versed in: triumphant endings.

Like the Jews wandering through the desert, our Federation has been on a bit of a journey. But unlike the wandering Jews, we’re not lost. And now that we have officially hired Jim Cohen as our Chief Executive Officer, our path is even clearer. Jim will join us officially on May 15, and we couldn’t be more excited.

Passover is one of my favorite times of the year. I hope this Pesach found you at a Seder table filled with people you love, honoring the beloved traditions of our people and celebrating the end of long journeys old and new. As we all know, Pesach isn’t complete without four questions and four answers. Here are Federations:

    1. Can you tell me more about our CEO?
      Jim Cohen comes to our Federation having served as CEO of the United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan, and Darien for the past four years. Prior to a career in Jewish communal service, Jim served as Assistant Secretary of the University for International Affairs at Yale University and before that, as a career diplomat in the Foreign Service of the United States Department of State.I am incredibly excited about the unique skills Jim brings to Minneapolis. His experience has equipped him to build relationships, forge alliances, and carry out strategic plans. And his recent tenure at a Federation means he knows the business—its challenges and its inherent strengths.While Jim arrives in May, his wife Lisa and their two school-aged children, Jonathan and Dahlia, will follow in August.
    2. What is Federation’s role in keeping our community safe?
      The sensitive nature of security precludes us from sharing too many details, but know that the work behind the scenes is vigilant and focused.For two years, the Minneapolis and St. Paul Federations have worked with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) to enhance security and combat the rise of anti-Semitism. Outside of these efforts, JCRC plays a primary and invaluable role in community security—and relies on your support to Federation.Your support of Federation also funds the Secure Community Network (SCN), a dedicated homeland security initiative on behalf of the American Jewish community. SCN provides trainings and helps implement security staff and plans in communities.
    3. What are you doing to prepare the next generation of Jews?
      Recent anti-Semitic and anti-Israel activity on college campuses inspired Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy and the Israel Center to work with Yachad (Jewish learning for teens, funded by Minneapolis Jewish Federation), Hillel, and the National Council of Jewish Women to present Preparing U, a timely and important program for high school students and their parents. Hillel students spoke candidly with participants about their experiences being Jewish on campus, and Hillel director Benjie Kaplan gave parents insight into what their kids might encounter when they head off to college as well as tools to advocate for Israel.
    4. How are you advancing leadership development?
      At the end of last year, Minneapolis Jewish Federation introduced Yesod, a nine-week executive leadership program for seasoned leaders in our community. Hebrew University’s Melton School developed Yesod’s curriculum, and the program is facilitated by local veteran educator Meryll Page. Take a peek at our upcoming issue of Minneapolis Jewish Life to read more about Yesod.

Chag Pesach sameach,

 

 

David Orbuch
President

P.S. We need your ongoing help to continue our journey to freedom. If you have not given, a gift of $100 can provide a week of hot, kosher meals to a local homebound senior, while $1,500 can provide a scholarship to a Minneapolis child to attend two weeks of life-changing Jewish camp. Please give generously.

If you have given, thank you. Our community’s journey is safer because of you.

JDC Takes the Fight Against Breast Cancer to Eastern Europe

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“We Want People to Know They’re Still Women”

It started, like so many revolutions these days, with a blog.
Breast cancer is a taboo subject in much of Eastern Europe, and women there often feel alone in their struggles against the disease.

Bori Halom started blogging in 2012, largely out of a need to break this silence. Soon the platform grew into a support group for fellow Hungarian breast cancer patients and survivors that now connects over 900 women on Facebook under Bori’s motto “Together, it’s easier.”

These words also describe her relationship with Federation partner the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Her support group is a partner in JDC’s Women’s Health Empowerment Program (WHEP), which works in Hungary and Bosnia and Herzegovina to educate about the importance of early detection, offer mammograms and provide support for women currently wrestling with the disease.

“We want people to know they’re still women,” she says. “My main goal is to break down the taboos, to shake the stigma, to end women being gawked at for wearing headscarves or having shaved heads. We never asked for cancer, it just happened.”

In partnership with the Susan G. Komen ®, WHEP also provides survivors like Bori with leadership training, empowering them to start NGOs, run peer-support groups and become advocates for better women’s health services.

Once a year, Bori’s group gathers at Budapest’s JDC-supported Jewish Community Center for a daylong summit of mutual comfort and support. Women swap stories of chemotherapy and tragedy, remission and resilience.

From Zero to Recovery

About 350 miles away, Stoja-Mira Simic is standing adrift in a sea of pink. Growing up in a remote village in the former Yugoslavia, electricity was a late addition to her life, let alone mammograms. Besides, she had always had perfect health. So when a friend told her a WHEP mobile mammogram unit was coming to her village, she went because it was free.

Ten days later, she got the results. “I had cancer. I had to keep saying it to myself over and over—I have cancer,” she recalls.
A WHEP representative also led Stoja-Mira down the road to recovery, delivering first-aid packages and making sure she never felt alone. “It was as if we’d known each other our entire lives,” she says.

Once healed, she learned that women from a nearby town were traveling to Sarajevo for the annual WHEP co-sponsored Race for the Cure ®. She immediately bought a ticket.

“When we arrived in Sarajevo, I suddenly saw a sea of 500 other women in pink around me,” she says. “I felt sadness that there were so many of us, but also joy that I’d survived and that my life was saved. I’ll attend the Race every year.”

For herself, Stoja-Mira and countless others affected by breast cancer, perhaps Bori says it best: “I’m very grateful to JDC. We started from zero. It’s amazing that they believed in my vision and were willing to follow me.”

STAND TOGETHER

 

A sense of belonging

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David’s parents don’t leave after they drop him off at Sha’arim’s Friends N Fun, a program that allows teens and young adults with special needs to attend social outings.

Officially, they need to monitor him in case of a seizure. But really, they just love watching his smile and sheer joy.

After a congenital heart defect and unexpected surgery complications, David suffers from a seizure disorder and brain damage. Life has been difficult for David and his family, and although David is upbeat and friendly, it’s hard for him to have meaningful relationships with his peers.

THAT’S WHY FRIENDS N FUN IS SO IMPORTANT TO HIM.

Each month David waits eagerly for his invitation to arrive. He marks the date on the calendar. He counts down the days, then the hours, until it’s time. Time for the social interaction every child deserves, for friends, for fun. Time to be part of the community.

Mah Koreh | June 2016

eilat-mah-korehShalom! I’m Eilat. As Director  of the Israel Center of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, I’ll be sharing stories of connection between Minneapolis and Israel, and helping you experience Israel — whether you’re on the shores of Lake Minnetonka or the beaches of Tel Aviv. 


 P2G: Connecting2Gether

In May, the Minneapolis Jewish community hosted 4 IDF officers who did not previously know each other, even though 2 of the 4 live in Rehovot (apparently not too far from each other!) Turns idf soldiersout the first part of the Federation mission statement – we build community– works in Rehovot as well.

As they spent the week presenting all over the community, this group of four not only bonded and became good friends, but they also learned about our Jewish community and grew to respect and appreciate Jewish life in the Diaspora.

Community members warmly embraced this group while we all heard different stories on how the IDF protects Israel—both the country and the concept.

A quote from a community member: The IDF officers in this group were very impressive in their presentations and for their dedication to safeguarding their country. Despite their youth, they have very mature thoughts and attitudes. It is clear that serving in the IDF provides valuable education, training and a path toward future success in Israeli society.

 

A Peek into Rehovot

What does a Turkish mountain climber in danger have in common with the Minneapolis Jewish community?

Rehovot.

Of course.

Read about this dramatic Mt. Everest story here

 

Programs in Israel: Volunteering for the nature lover – Go Echo

For many years, when driving through a certain section in Israel, it felt like we entered an invisible bubble filled with a horrid mixture of skunk and feces fumes. Almost instantaneously the juvenile flatulence jokes came out as we proved to our parents that they still had work to do if they wanted to raise us properly.

But over time, this stinky mountain became something which never ceases to amaze me and another example of how Israel can turn lemons into lemonade and even use the lovely lemony scent for the added touch.

Next time you travel to Israel, stop by the echo park Hiriya to learn and experience the efforts Israel goes through to help the environment.

If you are interested in spending some time volunteering in Israel and working on environmental issues or nature, look into Go Echo for something a little different.

30 years after Glienicke Bridge

Rachel Danziger Sharansky

In case you missed it, this moving piece was written by the daughter of Natan Sharansky, CEO of our partner The Jewish Agency for Israel and face of the modern day Exodus— an inspiring reminder of the human impact of your Federation support.

As my parents’ daughter, I am forever aware that I owe my existence to the people who yelled with my mother. I wouldn’t be here today if you, the Jews of the world, wouldn’t have opened your hearts and your homes and your purses. You marched in rallies, sent letters to your representatives, paid my mother’s tickets as she flew from one demonstration to another. You hosted her. You encouraged her. Your yells broke through the Iron Curtain. They broke into my father’s cell long before they broke him out of it. And they broke into my inner geography, where they ring and echo to this day.”

Tatiana and Bronislav will not go hungry

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Winter in Ukraine. The temperature is -27 ̊ F, and snow and ice have closed the roads.

 

But Tania is riding a borrowed horse and sleigh packed with food and supplies from Minneapolis Jewish Federation partner the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), for Tatiana and Bronislav. She’ll make this hour-long trek every day because Tatiana and Bronislav are elderly, disabled, and otherwise alone.

Ukraine is home to some of the most vulnerable Jews in the world. Tens of thousands of elderly Jews in small towns dotting the region struggle to survive. During the harsh winter months, many, like Tatiana and Bronislav, live without adequate heating or even central plumbing.

That’s why Tania and hundreds of other workers and volunteers at Hesed social welfare centers, run by JDC, go the extra mile to ensure no Jew is left behind.

When the weather is good, Tania drives her moped to their remote farm to bring supplies, cook, clean and care for the couple. And when the weather is bad — as it often is — she loads up her brother’s horse and sleigh with supplies and makes the long trek herself. And when her brother needs his horse, she walks. For over an hour.

I had to go, otherwise they will starve, she says.

Tania insists the motivation behind her selfless work is Tatiana and Bronislav themselves. “Despite their condition, they do not lose heart. They amaze me with that,” she says. “I am doing everything for them as for my relatives. I do not see any difficulties in my work; how is it possible to have hardships in the work that you love?”

On behalf of Tatiana and Bronislav, thank you

Your support of Federation ensures that these Jews — some of the world’s poorest — do not go hungry.

P2G Update: Synagogue via Skype, JWRP visits Rehovot

Have you met our sister? It’s true, Minneapolis has a sister city in Israel: the beautiful town of Rehovot! Through this Partnership2Gether initiative, Minneapolis is strengthening a connection to Israel and building a stronger sense of Jewish peoplehood. Here are just a few recent stories of partnership, from Darchei Noam and  the #MOMentum mission, and click here to learn more about Partnership2Gether (and make sure to like us on Facebook!)

Thanks to technology, we are able to bring two synagogues, with a deep love of learning, together.

Beginning November 17, Congregation Darchei Noam in St. Louis Park will begin simultaneous study sessions with synagogue The Berman Shul in Rehovot, Israel.

The six classes will be held on Tuesday evenings, the Minneapolis group meets at Darchei Noam at 7PM and on Sundays at 11AM. The following Sunday the groups will gather via Skype in Minnesota and Israel to discuss what they learned and share insights.

These classes are free and open to the community. The schedule is below, and we hope to see you there!

  • Amos – NOV 17th | Sunday Skype discussion on NOV 22nd
  • Hosea – DEC 15th | Sunday Skype discussion on DEC 20th
  • Micah (Micheas) – FEB 9th | Sunday Skype discussion on FEB 14th
  • Habakkuk and Zephaniah – MARCH 8th | Sunday Skype discussion on MAR 13th
  • Obadiah – MAY 17th | Sunday Skype discussion on MAY 23rd
  • Haggai and Zechariah – JUNE 14th | Sunday Skype discussion on JUN 19th

For more information, contact:

Congregation Darchei Noam
2950 Joppa Ave. S. at Minnetonka Blvd. | 952-452-8476
DarcheiNoamMN@yahoo.com | www.DarcheiNoamMN.org


Minneapolis women visit Rehovot!

The #‎Momentummn‬ delegation of the‪#‎MOMentumtrips‬ of women visited Rehovot on Tuesday, October 27th as a part of our Partnership2Gether program through the municipality of Rehovot, the Jewish Agency and the Minneapolis Jewish Federation.

The visit was hosted and sponsored by Rehovot’s Deputy Mayor, Zohar Blum, and David Ashkenazi, Rehovot’s Chief of Staff and Head of Foreign Relations Department.

The group spent the day touring the city (Weisman Institute and the Ayalon Institute), visiting kindergartens and early childhood care facilities in Kiryat Moshe as well as a little bit of shopping.

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The highlight of the visit was dinner at the Minkov Citrus Orchard Museum along with Rehovot members of the partnership’s Steering Committee which is Co-Chaired by Dr. Yoram Blachar.

The meeting between members of the Steering Committee and the women from the Minneapolis community was successful, exciting and left a taste and desire for further development of the relationship.

Fun fact: Melanie Ginsburg, a MASA Israel student from Minneapolis on a Teachers Fellows program in Rehovot, spoke with the group while they were there about how Federation supports Masa (which is also a Jewish Agency for Israel program), and about what she is doing in Rehovot.

Dozens of members of the Minneapolis Jewish community are scheduled to visit Rehovot in the upcoming months to continue establishing relationships and friendships with the residents of Rehovot.

 

Conversation with Ahava Tomer

Below is a terribly sad and moving portrait of a recipient of support from the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Fund for the Victims of Terror. With distance and through media we sometimes forget the real people behind the stories.

Thanks go to several of our partners in Israel, who not only visited the victims but shared these stories with us while juggling everything else that they do. Trying moments like these remind us of our  incredible mission and the truly exceptional and warm colleagues who deliver that mission in Israel and around the world. We have many hands working around the clock to bring what is going on in Israel a little closer to our community around the world.

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Jewish Agency representatives met Ahava Tomer outside the ICU at the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. She has hardly left the place ever since her son, Yonatan, was rushed there two days ago after being stabbed numerous times by a terrorist. She is not allowed to enter and see him often, but she said Yonatan is already doing better and calls her on his cell phone from inside the ICU room. He is laying in a bed near Nadav— a 13-year-old boy who was critically wounded in the same attack.

Ahava said her son was at her bedside every day at the hospital three months ago when she underwent surgery to address a disability she has suffered from since contracting polio as a baby. Now he is hospitalized just down the hall from the ICU where she received treatment and she can’t believe she is back.

She proudly described how Yonatan, who is the youngest of her 11 children, saved many lives during the attack when he shouted “terrorist, terrorist,” and yelled at a little girl to hide in a building. The girl’s father has since called Ahava weeping, and thanking her son for saving his daughter’s life.

Ahava recounted the day of the attack, saying that Yonatan was supposed to come back home from synagogue. When she heard ambulances outside, she tried calling him on the phone but he didn’t answer. She grew more and more frantic, calling him to no avail until a stranger answered the phone, telling her that her son had gotten a scratch and was in the hospital. It took Ahava several hours to get to the hospital since the roads were all blocked. When she finally got there and saw her son in the ICU bed she couldn’t believe it was him and broke down crying.

As she was sitting outside of the ICU room, she noticed that there was an Arab woman sitting across from her. Only later did Ahava realize that this was the mother of the terrorist who had attacked her son and was being treated in a bed right near Yonatan and Nadav — the other victim. After making a request to the staff, the terrorist was moved to another room.

Ahava, who received an emergency grant from The Fund for the Victims of Terror, is in desperate need of the financial assistance. Her husband is also handicapped and since the day of the attack hasn’t been physically able to visit the hospital. The family doesn’t own a car, so in order to come to the hospital she needs to get rides from neighbors and friends. Ahava plans on using the money from The Fund to help Yonatan while he is in the hospital by getting him a decent pair of pajamas and slippers to wear.

“It is very special that there are people around the world that care about someone like me, may I never need such a gift in the future,” Ahava said. “I want to say not just ‘thank you,’ but ‘a thousand thanks’ — I wish health to all those who gave and that may we never need such gifts in the future!”

** Important Note: Everyone mentioned is a real person. We have used aliases to give the family some measure of privacy during these trying times.

Because of your gift, victims of the horrifying terrorist attacks happening throughout Israel will receive assistance quickly—often within 24 hours—so they can start the process of healing.

DONATE TODAY

Tell the UN: Don’t Tamper with the Jewish People’s Holiest Site

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The Minneapolis Jewish Federation and the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul join with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas to urge you to sign this important petition.

The Executive Council of UNESCO is scheduled to vote this Wednesday, October 21, on an outrageous draft resolution about Jerusalem that was submitted by Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

Urgent action is required immediately to defeat this extremely toxic resolution.

The provocative resolution demands that UNESCO affirm that “the Buraq Plaza is an integral part of the Al-Aksa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif.”  The Buraq Plaza is the Arabic name for the Western Wall or Kotel and the Al-Haram Al-Sharif is the Arabic designation for the Temple Mount.

At no point does this draft resolution acknowledge a Jewish association with the Western Wall, which is the last remaining vestige of the Second Jewish Temple that was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.  Instead this resolution completely disregards any Jewish connection to the holiest structure within Judaism.

This gross attempt to erase Jews from our own history is unconscionable and must be rejected by the UNESCO Executive Board. (The resolution also condemns Israeli actions in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.)

Fortunately, not only has Israel, the United States, Britain, and other UN members denounced this initiative, claiming that the resolution disregards historical Jewish and Christian ties to the Old City, but even UNESCO’s executive director has “appeal[ed] to the UNESCO Executive Board to take decisions that do not further inflame tensions on the ground and that encourage respect for the sanctity of the Holy Sites.”

Sources indicate that the same resolution will also be submitted to UNESCO’s 58-member General Assembly. Palestine has been recognized as a member of UNESCO since 2011, but is not on its 15-member Executive Council.

Because the last few weeks of violence in Israel were spurred in part by slanderous allegations about Israel’s intentions to change the status quo on the Temple Mount, this resolution is particularly inflammatory.

Urge the United Nations to reject this anti-Semitic resolution and to avert the potentially fatal impact that the adoption of such a one-sided and outrageous resolution would have not just on Israel, but the entire Middle East.

By signing this AJC petition you will take the most concrete step you can in publicly urging a NO VOTE on this resolution by the governments which make up the UNESCO Executive Council.

Please also share this Action Alert with your friends and encourage them to make their voices heard today.