Change is all around us and it is sometimes difficult to keep up with the accelerating pace of innovations sparked by new technology. Smart phones, artificial intelligence, cars that drive themselves… what next! And we see major change and upheaval all around us in the world. Oh, for some stability… well, you can find it here in ESRA. Stability is in our ongoing flow of interesting and educational activities, and in our ESRAmagazine published and distributed with unfailing consistency five times a year for the past 38 years, always maintaining its high quality. But ESRA is also changing. We are always looking for new activities, projects, and ways of improving the services we provide our members. Improving the way we use technology to communicate with our members and branches is important to us. We believe in finding the right balance between Change and Stability.
"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future." John F. Kennedy
There is Change in our everyday lives and sometimes we are hit with the fragility of life that can suddenly impact us. An illness, a tragic loss - we never know when that life-impacting change will come along. So, we need to enjoy and make the most of every day, be it with travel, family occasions, reading a good book or… volunteering. Volunteering has the benefit of being enjoyable while also doing something useful for our society. It makes not only the volunteer feel good, it positively impacts the lives of others, and every change for the good radiates into society as a whole.
ESRA is a volunteer organization that values the volunteering work we do, as much as the volunteers value ESRA for providing the opportunity and the framework in which to do it. Our volunteer work is done with enthusiasm and smiles, generated by the pride, satisfaction, and feeling of accomplishment gained. In fact, there is a growing body of research regarding the health benefits that volunteering provides, in addition to its social benefits. The Corporation for National and Community Service in the USA has documented the strong relationship between volunteering and health. Those who volunteer demonstrate lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer. So, volunteering with ESRA not only helps others, it helps you too. Join us, and we can help each other and society, all at the same time.
Achinoam Nini is also an ESRA volunteer, and our January fundraiser was not only a successful full house, it was a very special, wonderfully enjoyable evening. The comments heard from audience members struggled to find enough superlatives. The evening began with a film of Achinoam's visit to the ESRA Social Club for Handicapped Youth in Kfar Shmaryahu. The easy way she related to the young people who attend the club was joyful and touching. As I said at the concert: "Achinoam Nini not only volunteers her time, but does it with love, and love is contagious. As she sang "Smile", the opening word of the song "Life is Beautiful", all around her did just that."
Much appreciation is due to those who made the Achinoam Nini concert possible, including our sponsors, and notably Eric Cohen Books; Richard Stein, Adele Hunter and all our hard-working Fundraising Committee; ESRA's small and dedicated staff and notably Sandra Broza, Anat Schifter and Irene Oliel who worked so hard preparing for the evening and selling tickets.
On a note of Change, we have regretfully said farewell to our Director of the last seven years, Yonit Gurfinkel. During her time with us, Yonit showed great dedication and raised our standard of administration to a new level. We are pleased with her promise of always being available for us, and wish her well in her future endeavors. We welcome our new General Manager, Sunny Marshansky, and wish her every success.
The Chair of our new Membership Committee, Stephen Jacobs, is working hard to increase our paid-up membership. The membership dues help to ensure that ESRA can keep providing services to members and contributing to Israeli society via our projects. Please be aware that although you may consider yourself one, you are not actually a member of ESRA unless your dues are paid up-to-date. That means you will not enjoy discounts for ESRA activities nor have the right to receive our quality magazine, which we nevertheless continue to deliver generously even to non-paid-up members residing in an ESRA distribution area. If you are a volunteer, attend activities, or are a friend of ESRA, please make sure you are also a paid-up member.
Back once more to the word I started with – Change. I am pleased to report that we have recently begun several new projects with the help of Tsafra Saar, our Project Coordinator. In Rishon LeZion, we have initiated two new projects. The Darbukot (drumming) Project for Children at Risk provides the children with both musical and discipline skills… and they are loving it. We are also partnering with Rishon Municipality and the "Acharai" foundation in a new Mentoring Project to help Rishon's 'inner city kids'; 10 students are each mentoring 3 children who were chosen by the welfare department. The aim is to motivate them, helping to improve their grades and their social skills. In Netanya, we have started a Skateboarding Project to help keep teenagers off the streets and give them a positive activity in the afternoons. We have also started a Learning and Arts Center in the Sela neighborhood of Netanya. In Herzliya's Yad HaTisha area, we now have a new Sewing Project where 12 women from the Ethiopian community are learning to sew.
And so ESRA continues to flourish with the right combination of Change and Stability.
I wish you all a warm winter and a peaceful, productive, and happy 2017.