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Ruth's passing reminds me of her valiant work for Refuseniks

My friend Ruth Ofer passed away a few weeks ago. At the shiva at the home of the Ofers in Nof Yam I was asked by her son, Yuval, how I had met Ruth. I told him that when she wanted to help Russian olim (as she had done before the breakup of the USSR) by writing to Refuseniks in prison, she was referred to ESRA, we met and that started a fruitful connection.

Recently I read an article about the 25 years since the mass aliyah from Russia. And it made me think of ESRA's contribution – amazing initiatives including establishing the Welfare Committee. I remember that when the aliyah started, the Herzliya Municipality said that tourists were giving them checks, which they passed to us because ESRA was a nonprofit organization and we distributed the money to the immigrants.

I told Yaacov, Ruth's husband, Yuval and his sister Netta that Ruth had taught Hebrew at an improvised ulpan for new Russian immigrants that we (ESRA) opened in Herzliya during the Gulf War when the official ulpanim were closed. The Ofers then opened an album containing letters from Refuseniks that she had received through the years (censored of course) and I do remember Ruth showing me a postcard from Ida Nudel with some words in Hebrew.

There was also a whole article about our ESRA "ulpan" on Ruppin Street. Ruth used to come to Herzliya by bus to teach, and she was the only one on the bus…

That shows what kind of person she was - determined to help, modest, caring and a wonderful teacher.

She came to Israel as a child from Germany with her family before the Second World War. And that reminded me of other Hebrew speakers who came to us in ESRA to find ways to help the Russian olim as ESRA had a reputation of helping and knowing how to help.

I would like to write some of those stories – it's like a history of how ESRA succeeded in developing original programs for the wave of Russian olim and, later, Ethiopian olim because of our innovativeness, flexibility, recognition of their needs, lack of bureaucracy, leadership and the ability to find the right volunteers.

Adele Rubin


Reading all about my friend Helene

I enjoyed Helene Magid-Halle's article, "Counter Productive", in ESRAmagazine no.177, reminiscences about her 20 years of volunteering in ESRA's Raanana second-hand shop.

Helene and I were at school and university together in Cape Town and have remained friends ever since. Helene studied Social Science at Cape Town University and made aliyah in 1950. After learning Hebrew she worked as a social worker in the Ma'abarot and later held senior positions in the Ministry of Social Welfare. After her retirement she volunteered with ESRA and Hadassah.

Miriam Herman


Hillel Halkin

Unmasked – but writer has now put down his pen

As always, I enjoyed the latest issue of ESRAmagazine. It was wonderful to read that Philologos – Hillel Halkin – finally revealed his identity in the interview 'Looking right, looking left . . . Hoo goes there'. However, sad to say, his most recent article was his final one: he has announced that he will no longer be writing this column – 210464/farewell-philologos. What a disappointment! However, we fully enjoyed it when he wrote it.

Judith Ronat 

Kfar Saba

Your headlines are a delight - hats off to the writer

The lady from the 'tablet' scam (Mail, ESRAmagazine 178) was very appreciative, and so was I: amazed that it was printed in full. Also, hats off to whoever dreams up the headlines! They are a neverending source of delight to me.

Siri Jones-Rosen


Magazine that gives me ideas . . .

ESRAmagazine is chock-full of wonderful information and pictures that give me great ideas . . .

Tamar Orvell

Tel Aviv

Paul Newman and a 'secret project'

The obituary for Marilyn Grant (ESRAmagazine 178) was a shock. We knew the Grants - both Marilyn and Murray - from Connecticut and with Afula/Gilboa which was our sister city from Project Renewal to what is now Project2Gether. We met with them several times on past trips to Israel. In 1996 when our daughter was studying for a semester at Hebrew University and we flew over in May, Audrey slept at the Grants' home and they brought her to Afula for our reunion with our daughter. On a later trip they told us, in great secrecy, about their plans for the camp that they were helping to fund with Paul Newman and others. The year it opened we learned, quite sadly, that Murray had died on the plane on the way home from the camp's opening. At least he lived to see their dream come to fruition. They were such role models for us.

Surely they will be missed by more than just their family.

Marsha Stein


'Enemy at gate' claims are just outrageous

Gideon Ben Yacov, in his letter 'The enemy at the gate' (ESRAmagazine 178) makes outrageous, unsubstantiated statements:

1. "We have all come to Israel out of fear and lack of choice".

This is not true for western Jewry, and especially for myself - I willfully chose to immigrate.

2. "But what makes me scared is the fear that we have just from living in Israel".

To which country does he compare Israel?

Do kidnappings occur? No.

Do schoolchildren still walk to school? Yes

Do I drive with my doors locked? No, never.

Am I frightened to walk or drive into any area inside Israel? No.

The total population of Israel is similar in size to that of the major cities in the USA, yet the total number of murders in Israel in one year is similar to that in a typical week in the major American cities.

Adrian Wolff

Ramat Hasharon

Quiz proves that we're a brainy bunch in Eilat – and want more

You would have thought we were the United Nations! Fifteen Eilatees participated in the ESRA National Quiz organized by Glenis Bertfield - South Africans, Canadians, British, Americans and Irish took part - and what fun we had, without the wine!

I was the quizmaster (a first for me) assisted by a professional team of scorer, Carole Leigh, and time master Claude Levinski. The event was held in the home of Fay Morris, Chairlady of English Wizo in Eilat.

Not having any secretarial skills, my emails to Glenis seemed to go on forever and I owe a a big thank you to Norman and Angela Millstone for having all the material printed out and delivered to me.

What a brainy bunch to have come third in the competition! Netanya came first, Tiberias was in second place and Eilat came third. We in Eilat can't wait for next for next year's quiz event!

What about more joint efforts by ESRA? Barbara Blum has given ESRA three wonderful music lectures in Eilat which were very successful. Maybe we can entice others to share their talents with us in Eilat?

I am delighted to say that new ESRA members signed up as a result of this very enjoyable evening. Thank you, Glenis, for all the hard work and effort you put into this project.

Fonda Dubb

ESRA Coordinator, Eilat

Volunteer goes that extra mile

I just want to say a huge thank you to volunteer, Matthew Karp, in the ESRA Herzliya office who really went above and beyond the call of duty. I called the office yesterday to purchase half a dozen cookbooks to take with me as gifts to North America. They are inexpensive, easy to pack, light, and very blue and white. My problem was that I was on crutches, making the pick-up a bit tricky, so I thought I'd have them mailed. Well, Matthew asked me if I would be home around noon and said he'd drop them by. Given that he was in Herzliya and I was in Raanana, he delivered them with a huge smile on his face. He really went the extra mile and now I have my books to take with me. Thank you Matthew.

Dr. Batya L. Ludman


. . . and thanks ESRA for your generosity

We turned to you, ESRA, asking for help for our daughter, Chaya, who is afflicted with a rare genetic syndrome – Trisomy 13 – to pay for the transport in a taxi from Tzfat to Afula for a hearing test. Chaya is cared for by Nitzanim, a rehabilitation center in Tzfat, and she needed the hearing diagnosis to establish what treatment to give her. You not only helped with the amount we requested, but added to it. We are very appreciative of your help and thank you profusely. It made us very happy, warmed our hearts and made us feel that we are not alone – that messengers were sent from heaven to help people like ourselves who are going through a difficult time coping.

Family S

Nitzanim, Tzfat

I am grateful to ESRA's Welfare Committee and very moved by your generous support of NIS2000. I have no words to describe how touched I am, and you have no idea how greatly encouraging your support is to me so that I can continue my studies, despite all the obstacles I face.

Many thanks, and may the Almighty One reward your kindness.

Devorah A, 

Tel Aviv

الأَبْجَدِيَّة العَرَبِيَّة‎ al-abjadīyah al-ʻarabīyah or الحُرُوف العَرَبِيَّة al-ḥurūf al-ʻarabīyah 



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Saturday, 29 January 2022

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