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Students Build a Community in Netanya

Annual Scholarship Awards Evening 

I still have the glow of an amazing evening.

The evening took place in the Hefzibah Community Center in Netanya, and was held in honor of 28 scholarships given by generous donors to students who are studying for their degrees, and who participate in the "Students Build a Community" (SBC) project, run by ESRA.

The Community Center in Hefzibah has a wonderful atmosphere. It is welcoming, modest, and teeming with excited children running around. School kids are being tutored privately by volunteers; older students are playing games with younger kids, and all the while the office staff is calmly working through this tumult.

In one room sits the sewing circle, with young adults and pensioners at their sewing machines, a young dynamic teacher and Melanie Book, the ESRA volunteer who guides them in the art of putting articles of clothing together. (When introduced as Melanie's sister-in-law, I was gratified to hear the high praise she receives, but I digress, as that's another story.)

The attention to detail always amazes me at ESRA functions, and I was no less amazed that evening. Plain tables were transformed with beautifully colored tablecloths in ESRA's orange and grey, dotted napkins, plates and cups. Delectable food and drink welcomed the donors and ESRA members as they walked in.

After enjoying the welcoming reception, everyone was invited into the hall where the formal program was to be held. It started off with a welcome by Nina Zuck, who told us of the exciting and influential careers of some of the SBC alumni. This was followed by a short film about the end of year outing of the Netanya SBC participants - both students and kids - who were treated to this day of fun at ShvilHa Tapuz, (the Orange Trail) near Hadera. The venue looked fabulous, and they were having the time of their lives.

Ofer Orenstein, the head of Netanya Community Centers in the Netanya Municipality, made a truly heartwarming speech about how much he appreciates ESRA, with anecdotes of his experiences working with youth. He added the welcome information that the municipality had decided to revert to its original financial partnership (which had been reduced due to corona) to enable ESRA to add another apartment in each neighborhood.

And then the main part of the evening began- the awards of the scholarships from donor to student.

An excellent on-screen presentation introduced each student. Cynthia Yakovi and Judy Argaman, the two ESRA volunteers on the project, in their relaxed and informal way, added a bit of personal history about each student as they came forward. The donors were emotional, the students gracious and appreciative, and me, well, I was overwhelmed! The stories of each of the 28 student scholarship recipients were so well presented. It was fascinating to hear about their family lives, their army service, all the while in awe of their accomplishments, and of course prouder than punch at how dedicated and determined they are to enrich the lives and experiences of the youth in their charge, by giving the very best of themselves.

Sincere thanks and appreciation must go to the donors of this project, both from Israel and abroad. Your open hearts, your sheer generosity and kindness of deed, is not to be taken for granted. To enrich the lives of these wonderful students, to make it easier for them, to encourage them to aim higher and higher, and to let them know you are behind them, is worthy of the highest praise.

We all fell in love with the students; I can honestly say everyone came out of the hall after the ceremony feeling emotional, feeling fulfilled and so proud of ESRA SBC, the organization that cares, that loves, and most of all, that gives.

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Friday, 01 July 2022

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