The Biennial event to give a huge thank you to our many wonderful ESRA volunteers was held at Beit Shmueli Synagogue on Monday December 5, 2016. ESRA chairman Baruch Tanaman opened the proceedings by saying what a pleasure it was to award these fantastic volunteers. He thanked the ESRA office team who prepared the beautifully laid out spread of tasty snacks. Baruch then introduced Merle Guttmann, ESRA Founder and Life President, who spoke of how emotional she always felt that this ESRA volunteer event was being held on the same day as the United nation's international Volunteer Day and Global applause Day. We call it ESRA applause day , she said. Merle told the audience some amazing facts: 41% volunteer awardees were from the UK, 24% from the U.S, 14% from South Africa, and the rest from Europe – Holland, Greece and Germany. In total they add up to 247 years of volunteering in ESRA up and down the country. The mayor of Raanana, Ze'ev Bielski, then spoke of the large number of South African families who had made aliyah and their contribution to ESRA and Israel. There were 17 awardees – 15 awards to volunteers, a Friendship award and a Chairman's Volunteer award. The high standard of the evening concluded with Rachel Wollstein playing the guitar and beautifully singing a number of songs in English and Hebrew – the perfect end to a very special event.
Mike was born in 1941 in Manchester, UK. In 1948 his family moved to Cape Town. Mike, a computer technician, came to live in Israel in 1969 with his wife Norma and daughter. He worked at IBM in Jerusalem fixing main-frame-computer systems. After leaving IBM, he became a technical writer and worked on many Israeli inventions.
In 2010 when the Altmans moved to Netanya, Mike began volunteering with ESRA, tutoring English.
He also helped computerize the administrative online forms for the ESRA calendar and created an online automatic entry form system for entering sponsor data. He also helped to acquire the home-cinema equipment for ESRA's Netanya lecture series, and install it.
Mike is one of ESRA's 'official' volunteer photographers, taking pictures on trips, at events and of ESRA Netanya projects.
David graduated from Habonim and reached Israel in 1963 from London, having traveled here by motorcycle and ship. He worked in engineering for more than 45 years, and was the first to propose in 1965 and later work on project "Bush-STOL", which became Israel's first indigenous aircraft design, later named "ARAVA".
His scientific book Consequential Macroeconomics-Rationalizing About How Our Social System Works was published in 2015.
David joined Hitachdut Oleh Britannia and helped to run their young person's "Onion Club" in Tel Aviv, There he met his wife Abigail (of Bnei-Yisrael, an arrival from Bombay).
Since 2005, David has been an ESRA member. He has been proofreading ESRAmagazine for four years and has also written a few articles.
Inge was born in Germany and was lucky enough to leave together with her family for the U.S. in 1938 knowing not a word of English.
She graduated high school in 1947, and married her soldier husband in 1951. At 41 she earned an AA degree as a Physical Therapy Assistant. Widowed in 1981 she came to Israel in 1985.
Today Inge volunteers in numerous organizations on a weekly basis: at Beit Levinstein in the Physical Therapy Department, and at Beit Issie Shapiro she works with handicapped children in the pool.
For 17 years she has been giving exercise classes at a Kfar Saba retirement home and also works at home giving therapeutic massage and treatments for pain.
Inge began her ESRA volunteering work in 1986, proofreading, packaging and delivering magazines. She was a driver and deliverer for ESRA's Meals on Wheels until the project stopped. For many years, she was chairperson of the ESRA Golden Friendship Club and also tutored English in several high schools.
She is a member of the ESRA Herzliya committee and for the last three years has been volunteering every week in ESRA's social club in Kfar Shmaryahu for young people with disabilities.
ackie was born in the UK and lived there for 21 years. Then she fulfilled her childhood dream and came to Israel. After ulpan in Beersheba she lived in Tel Aviv where she met and married Robin, in 1966.
In 1974 they moved to kibbutz Neve Eitan in the Beit Shaan Valley. In 2003 they moved to Hadera and Jackie heard of ESRA for the first time. She started working in the Raanana bookshop and has turned up there every second Friday.
Jackie feels that the bookshop fills an important role in the lives of the English-speaking community and provides a service for those who just want to read English literature at a reasonable price. She knows from personal experience that not all libraries hold good selections of English books.
Jackie also volunteers at a high school in Or Akiva, helping teenage girls with their English Bagrut. She finds this work very fulfilling and challenging as she is not always familiar with some of the literature set by the Ministry of Education.
The girls come from very mixed backgrounds and some from broken families. Jackie believes her volunteering helps them with more than just their English studies.
Gert came to live in Israel in 1976 with her husband and two children. They lived in Jerusalem for 22 years, and Gert worked at the Hebrew University in the Department of Development and Public Relations.
Following their move to the center of the country in 1998, Gert heard about ESRA. She first worked in the Kfar Saba Second-Hand Shop and then in 2000 became an active member of the local committee.
Gert has volunteered in several ESRA activities including planning trips and coordinating the successful but short-lived Kfar Saba Students Build a Neighborhood Program.
She organizes fundraising events such as concerts and luncheons. For nine years she has been a member of ESRA's Welfare Committee where she uses her experience to help reach decisions about making grants to needy students.
She teaches Mah Jong as an ESRA activity in Kfar Saba, and this year started to volunteer in the branch's English Tutoring Program, helping high school students prepare for their oral English Bagrut examinations.
Gert's involvement in ESRA brings her much satisfaction and she takes "great pride in being a member of this wonderful organization."
Sally and Richard Halon
The Halons came to Israel from the UK in 1982, directly to the Raanana Absorption Center, and settled in Raanana. Richard is an accountant and Sally is a narrator and translator for the Library for the Blind.
They became members of ESRA soon after arriving in Israel, and when ESRAvision offered a film production course, Richard decided to join, little realizing the extent to which it would impact on their lives.
Sally joined the team soon after in 2000, where they met an inspiring group of talented people from all backgrounds. At that time ESRAvision produced a monthly English language magazine for community TV, a program for English speakers. ESRAvision now has a YouTube channel where ESRA clips are posted.
In their words: "ESRAvision has led us to a huge variety of places and people. ESRAvision has always highlighted ESRA events and activities, and we try to be on hand to film these whenever possible.
'There are ESRA projects which are always a challenge to present visually because we are careful to respect the confidentiality of the recipients."
Lola Katz: Chairman's Volunteer Award 2016 for contributions to ESRA over 25 years
Lola was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She went to Johannesburg Girls' High School and graduated from Witwatersrand University and the Johannesburg Teachers College of Education in 1961.
She came to Israel in 1969 with her husband Hertzel and two children.
She worked as an English teacher, trained students at Beit Berl College, wrote course material for schools and government offices and consulted on cross-cultural communication in the public and private sectors.
After her retirement in 2009, although she had been giving training workshops to ESRA's English tutors for many years, she became more active in ESRA.
She joined the volunteer committee and in 2012 was appointed coordinator of the Volunteer Division with special responsibility for developing the English Tutoring Program (ETP) which begun in the 1980s. Today there are over 200 volunteer tutors in 66 schools.
Lola has led numerous training workshops in the North, Center and South to offer practical tips and tools for volunteer tutors. She also tutors pupils in a high school. She co-coordinated setting up ESRA's Let's Talk program in Raanana.
udy's Lithuanian parents, who battled for a few years in Palestine, left for South Africa where they had relatives. They dreamt of returning to Israel, so Judy was born with the "Zionist itch". She joined Bnei Zion at age 10, becoming a counselor where she met her husband Aubrey.
They came to live in Israel in 1958 and went to Timorim where they lived for three years. They then lived in Jerusalem where Judy worked for the Israel Tourist Organization and the Israel Bonds.
Between 1972-75 Aubrey was the Aliyah Shaliach in Johannesburg and Judy worked for the United Zionist Association as secretary, helping to organize speakers for their weekly Luncheon Club.
On retiring in 2000, Judy started volunteering for ESRA, distributing magazines in Raanana, joined the ESRA Raanana Knitting Group and tutored matric students for their English oral exams.
For 14 years she has volunteered in the ESRA Gan Rashal office as the Donations Column Editor for ESRAmagazine. She comes to the office every Wednesday. "Why wouldn't I? The staff is great and we have a few laughs and a few cries!"
Born 75 years ago in Ghetto, Amsterdam, Betty was hidden by the Hageman family who were later recognized by Yad Vashem. Her parents and brother perished in Sobibor.
Betty worked at the Israeli Embassy in The Hague and in 1964 she joined Ulpan Akiva and spent a month in a dig at Massada.
After her marriage she lived in Zichron Yaacov and in the U.S. She returned to Zichron Yaacov and worked as an administrator and project manager at the Technion.
Betty is a committee member of ESRA Five Towns, and acts as treasurer. She is always on the lookout for new members.
She has been volunteering in ESRA's Binyamina Bookshop since it was established in 2008. Betty thanks ESRA for the opportunity it offers to volunteer in a friendly ambience for a great cause.
Stuart was born in Leeds, UK, in 1944. After leaving school, he joined his father in his soft furnishing business for 30 years. When his father died in 1988, Stuart joined a friend who had started in this field and worked with him for 20 years. He and his wife Dianne came to Israel in 2011 to be near family in Raanana.
Within four months he was volunteering in the ESRA Second-Hand Shop. He started making the products visible, presentable, accessible and exciting to prospective customers. This means more turnover and greater funds for ESRA charities.
Stuart, who has worked in the shop four to five mornings a week for five years, says: "I see new faces regularly, thoroughly enjoy the work and want to continue to assist ESRA in raising funds for wonderful causes."
Sonia was born in Manchester, UK. She spent a year in "Hasharat Noar," a program run by Habonim, which prepares young people for life on a kibbutz. She sailed to Israel, found work in the USOM and later started work as an English secretary. There she met her husband, Micha. They have four children and nine grandchildren.
Sonia worked for Horowitz lawyers in Tel Aviv for nearly 20 years. She delivered ESRAmagazines and was amongst the first who worked in the first Second-Hand Shop set up to assist Russian immigrants. Since those early days, Sonia says she has learnt a lot and met many interesting people.
Sonia is in the shop every week and helps to sort stuff. "We work hard and are very proud of the goods we can offer." The shop serves not only olim but a wide section of the community, from young people setting up home to others who are financially disadvantaged.
Sonia's manageress describes her as "a fabulous, committed volunteer who has assisted me for at least 20 years. She serves customers with her pleasant manner, worries about the staff who haven't had a drink, and does whatever is asked of her efficiently and in a most obliging manner."
Vicky was born in Athens, Greece, in 1938. In World War 2, Athens was occupied first by the Italians and then the Germans. In April, 1944, the Germans arrested the Jews taking them to Auschwitz. Her family was lucky – as Turkish citizens, they were sent to Turkey by the Turkish ambassador. Ater liberation, they returned to Athens.
Shortly after her marriage, she became a founding member of WIZO Aviv, formed by the young Jewish women of Athens. Their main goal was to bring these young families closer to Judaism and Zionism.
Vicky and her family came to Israel in 1968. Raising a family, taking care of elderly parents and work, kept her very busy. She moved to Modiin in 1999.
When Vicky retired, she received an ESRAmagazine with a letter asking for volunteers to join the English Tutoring Program (ETP) in Modiin. She joined immediately.
For three years, Vicky helped high school seniors prepare for their oral Bagrut. Then she volunteered in an elementary school. For three years, Vicky has been coordinating the program which has over 25 devoted volunteers who tutor two to three hours every week in the fifth and sixth grades at the Keshet School.
Says Vicky: "The children benefit from the tutoring, and the tutors derive immense pleasure from it."
Helen came to Israel in 1957 from the U.S. as a volunteer through a Jewish Agency Emergency Program directed to border kibbutzim. Due to the political situation of the time, no passport was issued, only a Laissez-Passer document. She returned for good in 1965, married and had three children.
After retiring, Helen started volunteering for ESRA in the Kfar Saba Second-Hand Shop thanks to Betty Wolfe who pulled her in. For the last 10 years, she has been a regular sorter, spending on average between 80 - 90 hours. "I really enjoy it," she says. "Every bundle and bag we receive is a surprise – what's inside? No two bundles are the same.
"Usually the donations of clothing, bedding and table linens we receive from the Sharon area and sometimes even from tourists, are very nice. Some of the used clothes are very elegant and some are even new! We make sure only the best is put out for sale.
"Special items are hung out immediately while others go on display the next day. We are probably the only store in Kfar Saba with new stock every day and sometimes even twice a day. All rejected items are packed into large bags and sold by weight. No loss anywhere. Really a win-win situation for ESRA."
Colin Schachat: ESRA Friendship Award 2016 for ongoing support in ESRA fundraising events
South African-born Colin has established himself internationally both as a renowned baritone and cantor. He is frequently heard performing in concerts with the world's leading orchestras, choirs, opera singers and cantors.
His unique, rich baritone voice combined with a rare artistic versatility, has allowed him to build up a successful international career beyond Israel, which has been his home since 1991.
Highlights of his career include performing at Buckingham Palace with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, singing with legendary tenors Jose Carreras and Neil Shicoff, and appearing as a featured soloist at the opening of the Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem in the presence of world leaders.
Colin performs in the UK, Israel, Canada, the U.S, South Africa and Eastern Europe. He has also appeared numerous times on radio and television. His discography includes thirteen recordings, covering a diverse repertoire of classical and liturgical music with various symphony orchestras and ensembles.
Colin holds a BA.LLB degree and has been involved in the financial services industry for the past 25 years.
He also devotes a great deal of his time and energy to diverse philanthropic endeavors, ESRA being notable among these.
David was born in Newark, U.S. in 1947. He came to Israel in 2002 with his wife, Gila.
Most of his career David worked for the U.S. government in financial positions.
In Israel, they built their house on Moshav Beit Gamliel where their daughter and her family were living. They started to attend lectures at the ESRA branch in Rehovot.
Ten years ago, during one of those lectures, the attendees were asked to join the Rehovot Branch Committee. David and Gila volunteered, and he became branch treasurer.
He's involved with getting the right information to the office to make payments for lecturers, trips, and local projects and programs that Rehovot branch supports such as MESHI, A Center for Productive Rehabilitation, and two After School programs for disadvantaged and problem elementary school children. With ESRA's funds, they are able to purchase items not within their budget. David signs up new members and takes donations.
He says, "I am happy I can contribute to such a worthwhile organization, and pray that I can continue in my position as treasurer for many years to come."
Cynthia was born in 1947 in New York City. She grew up in a secular Jewish family and majored in English literature at Queens College in New York City during the revolutionary 60s, which ingrained in her a radical, humanist point of view.
In 1967, she came to Israel on Sherut La'am intending to spend a year volunteering on kibbutz. Within a short time, she met and married an Israeli and they lived in Netanya.
Cynthia got an MBA in Tel Aviv and started a successful career at Israeli pharmaceutical and medical device companies as International Marketing and Sales Manager, traveling worldwide to open up new markets for Israeli products.
Upon retirement, she found in ESRA the opportunity to volunteer her time to the Students Build a Community projects, first established as a joint effort with the Netanya municipality more than 10 years ago in the neighborhood of Hefzibah populated by Ethiopian immigrants.
Cynthia volunteers between three and six hours a week, helping the coordinators deal with recruiting, interviewing and training students.
Volunteer Cynthia Yaakovi gives thanks on behalf of the volunteer awardees
I'm not going to say:
■How volunteering enriched our lives.
■How privileged we are to be able to help poorer, weaker, underprivileged, others.
■How we gained, learned experienced more from them than we gave.
■That the satisfaction overcame the inconvenience
■How the look in someone's eyes, smile, working hands, was an epiphany for us.
I'm not going to thank:
■ESRA for providing the framework, support, organization, ideas and ideals.
■My beautiful family for being understanding and patient every time they heard "no, can't come, can't bring, can't do, because of meeting, happening, shift or commitment …"
■An extraterrestrial, supernatural, imaginary or supreme being or force or belief for making me who I am and giving me (us) the desire and ability to do, each in her own sphere.
Abraham Lincoln said: "He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help."
I want, need, demand the right to criticize, to think and to say what needs fixing, adjusting, reworking, improving, changing. And the right to criticize comes with the heart to help, the responsibility to help, to change, to remodel, to rework, to unravel, to do what I, we, believe needs to be corrected; to compensate for our privileged place in our unfair, unequal, unseeing and uncaring surroundings.
In the English translation of The Diary of Anne Frank there appears this ingenue thought: "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."
That is my message on behalf of all the volunteer awardees. No need to thank us, just join us and support us in improving the world.
Thank you ESRA, and all the members, for giving us this opportunity to criticize, to help and to improve our lives and the quality and value of other's lives.