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SUZANNE BELLING

Tania’s working for a cause pays dividends

MELBOURNE – When Tania Burstin introduced the concept of online crowdfunding to the market back in 2007, it was met with hesitation. But today, it’s an institution in Australian fundraising, and has significant applications in the Jewish community too.

Burstin volunteered for a charity 10 years ago. The team was trying to raise money for a fun run. She recalls it wasn’t easy, co-ordinating cash and cheques from all directions.

“I thought there must be a better way. I did some research, and decided to start an online fundraising platform where the charity would be the beneficiary and people could request donations on their own online page from their friends and family,” she explains.

Indeed, it was the first donation platform of its kind in Australia. Little did Burstin expect that “mycause” would grow to be Australia’s biggest personal-cause crowdfunding site.

“Online fundraising is now quite acceptable and people understand what it is. But of course in 2007, it was all new,” she says. Mycause has helped raise more than $50 million across thousands of different campaigns.

 “Obviously you could always give, but now you can give in a more efficient way. In a way that you’re immediately receipted; in a way that your message gets sent to the beneficiary. There are all those beautiful tools that we have made the giving experience much more enjoyable and authentic, and efficient.”

Among those “mycause” has helped are Jewish people and charities. – Australian Jewish News

 International stamp exhibition in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM – A major international stamp exhibition will open at the Jerusalem International Convention Centre on November 13 for five days. Although e-mail and WhatsApp have largely wiped out personal letters to which stamps are affixed, there are still tens of thousands of philatelic enthusiasts around the country. The hobby has apparently been promoted by the exchange of information online and on social media.

To mark the event, a postal stamp will be issued by the Philatelic Service of the Israel Postal Company in memory of the fifth president of Israel, Yitzhak Navon, who died a year ago. There will also be a personalised “My Stamp” sheet illustrated by actor Chaim Topol, President Reuven Rivlin, singer and actor Yehoram Gaon and former MK Geula Cohen.

Many rare stamps and collections will be shown.

The organisers want not only veteran collectors to attend, but also children and teens who are not familiar with stamp collecting.

Yaron Ratzon, head of the Philatelic Service (helping to organise the exhibition), said he was eager “to expose the younger generation to philately.”

Medallions will be awarded to collectors will the best collections – either individual stamps or subjects. – Jerusalem Post

Orthodox yeshiva teacher jailed for smuggling cocaine into UK

LONDON – Jacob Amar, 58, of Jerusalem, was arrested at Heathrow on September 29 carrying 123 grams of the class A drug, cocaine.

He had arrived on a flight from Colombia, where he had been assisting with Orthodox conversions.

Amar admitted possessing the cocaine, saying it was for his own personal use.

Defence lawyer Jeffrey Israel told the court his client was “highly regarded and respected within his community”.

Able to speak six languages, Amar travelled extensively to help with Orthodox conversions around the world.

Israel said Amar had developed a cocaine habit, and had bought the drugs in Colombia on impulse at a price far cheaper than he would expect to pay in Israel.

When he arrived in London he was en route to Uman in Ukraine to attend the Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to Rabbi Nachman’s tomb that is attended by approximately 50 000 Chasidic Jews.

Passing sentence at Isleworth Crown Court today, Mr Justice Robin Johnson said he accepted Amar did not intend to sell the drugs.

The judge said: “I am presented with a contradiction as you are clearly a man of considerable talent and integrity, yet you knowingly secreted a significant quantity of cocaine and attempted to enter into the UK.

“The court is prepared very unusually to accept your mitigation that the cocaine was intended for your own personal use rather than you acting as a courier for drugs that would end up on the streets.

“In the circumstances, I am prepared to impose an unusually short sentence from a starting point of four-and-a-half years, given your personal circumstances and a discount for your early guilty plea, I sentence you to 18 months’ imprisonment of which you will serve half.” – Jewish Chronicle, London

 The small Israeli village where everyone’s a doctor

 ARRABA, Lower Galilee – The village of Arraba, to the north of Nazareth, may look like just another quiet community in the Lower Galilee. But take a closer look at the 24 000 residents and you’ll notice a lot of them preface their names with the title “Dr”.

Arraba (also transliterated as Arrabeh) boasts one of the highest numbers of doctors per capita in the world. The Israeli Arab community has more than six doctors per thousand inhabitants, according to a 2015 report by community activist Makbula Nassar, a journalist and presenter of current affairs programmes.

By comparison, Israel as a whole has 3,4 physicians per 1 000 residents and the OECD average is 3,3 doctors per 1 000 people.

Israel has about five medical graduates per 100 000 people, according to a 2013 OECD report.

“Arraba produces between 25 and 30 new doctors each and every year,” Nassar says. “This village is filling the gap of Israel’s lack of doctors.”

How did a village once known for farming turn into a medical mecca?

Dr Hatim Kanaaneh, the first Western-trained doctor in Arraba, is credited with this reform.

Just as restaurateur Jawdat Ibrahim gave new life to the Arab-Israeli village of Abu Ghosh after he won the Illinois lottery and returned home to help a new generation of university students better their careers, Kanaaneh returned to his village in the late 1960s after receiving a medical degree from Harvard University.

Kanaaneh instigated a call for proper healthcare in the Galilee and raised awareness of the medical profession among his fellow Arabs.

The former public-health employee of the Israeli Ministry of Health then co-founded the non-governmental public health organization The Galilee Society, to better serve Arab villages and towns. – ISRAEL21c

 Toronto and Montreal mayors head 120-member mission to Israel

 TORONTO – The mayors of the two biggest cities in Canada and a delegation of about 120 are flying to Tel Aviv for a week-long economic mission that includes several Israeli cities and the West Bank.

Toronto’s John Tory and Montreal’s Denis Coderre have slightly different focuses and itineraries for the trip, but both hope it will result in lucrative partnerships.

Tory is stressing business and technology and the nearly 50 members of his team come from those sectors, along with three city councillors.

Coderre is leading a group of almost 70, largely from hi-tech and knowledge-based industries, as well as institutional, academic and community leaders.

While business is the first priority, he looks forward to forging stronger connections in the cultural sphere, in research and development and urban affairs. He speaks of cultivating “people-to-people” relationships, in addition to encouraging trade and investment.

Coderre is taking part in an international mayors’ conference while there, and hopes to sign a new co-operation agreement with Tel Aviv and establish ties with the other cities.

He is the current president of Metropolis, an international association of large cities, and is an enthusiastic proponent of “urban diplomacy”.

He believes cities will play an ever more significant role in such issues as climate change, migration and security.

“Israel has emerged as a leading global hub for technology due in part to its successful incubator ecosystem,” Tory said on November 3 in formally announcing the trip.

“Our mission is to learn how government interventions have facilitated the rapid growth of their technology sector, learn from their innovations and connect Toronto businesses with opportunities in their market.” – Canadian Jewish News

 Fallout from sexual assault story ripples worldwide

LOS ANGELES – For prominent Israeli journalist and author Ari Shavit, admitting that he was the subject of a Jewish Journal cover story about sexual assault, could mean more than the end of his work at a newspaper and television station.

Having already resigned his posts at Haaretz and Channel 10 in Israel, Shavit also has had speaking engagements cancelled. And it remains unclear at this point if the episode could impact HBO’s work on a documentary based on his acclaimed book, “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel”.

In an October 21 article titled “My Sexual Assault, and Yours: Every Woman’s Story”, Journal senior writer Danielle Berrin revealed that several years ago, she met a prominent Israeli journalist for an interview about his book that was having an important impact on the Jewish conversation.

Berrin said the journalist “lurched at me like a barnyard animal, grabbing the back of my head, pulling me toward him”. He also suggested that they go up to his room, she wrote. 

On October 27 Shavit issued a statement acknowledging that he was the subject of the story and offering an explanation. 

The incident in question occurred in February 2014, when Shavit was in Los Angeles to promote “My Promised Land”. Berrin, a senior reporter who joined the Journal in 2007, has won numerous journalism awards for her profiles and cultural coverage.

Berrin responded to Shavit on the Jewish Journal website (jewishjournal.com), indicating that his statement was inadequate. 

After Shavit admitted to being the unnamed journalist in Berrin’s piece, the organised Jewish world condemned Shavit. – Jewish Journal, Los Angeles

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Centenarian Rose Norwich zooms in on a life of achievement

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They say that age is just a number, but when you turn 100 during a pandemic, there’s every reason to celebrate.

Riviera resident Rose Norwich marked her centennial birthday on 2 January, and while COVID-19 prevented any in-person celebration, the occasion was a special one indeed.

“People have been so kind,” Norwich told the SA Jewish Report. “I didn’t realise I was a such a novelty. Turning a hundred kind of creeps up on you.”

Although unable to see her four children, eight grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and other relatives, Norwich celebrated her birthday with friends and family in Zoom gatherings.

“My family all live in different places around the world, and we had three separate Zoom sessions: one for my children and grandchildren, another with my siblings, and the others with friends around the world. It was such fun and really wonderful.

“It was almost better, in a way, to have this. Most of them couldn’t have come here, regardless of COVID-19. If anything, this business has taught us a lesson that we need to stay together as families rather than be separated. At times of crisis, we need one another.”

Born in 1921 in Johannesburg, Norwich has notched up endless accomplishments. The second of five children, she completed a degree in architecture at 22, and went on to devote much of her life to Jewish communal organisations.

“I did my degree towards the end of the war, met my husband, and started a family,” she says. “My parents had both been integrally involved in community organisations, so it wasn’t new to me.

“I started at ORT Jet in the sixties. The organisation was going through a bad patch, and Richard Goldstone, Basil Wunsch, and I worked to resurrect it and see it grow. We changed what it did, made it interdenominational, and set up a system that would help all kinds of people achieve all kinds of different things.”

Norwich was subsequently invited to join the Union of Jewish Women, becoming the organisation’s president and joining the South African Jewish Board of Deputies as a result.

“They asked me if I would do an exhibition of South African Jewry for the Beit Hatfutsot Museum in Israel. It was a major project that I did over two years, collecting plenty of photos for use in the exhibition. They say that 60 000 people saw it in Israel, and I visited it with my late husband, Isadore.”

Another major project to which Norwich devoted herself was a master’s dissertation, which she took up at the age of 66, 44 years after completing her first degree.

“I met somebody overseas who showed me pictures of destroyed shuls,” she says. “I knew we had shuls in South Africa which had fallen apart owing to sheer neglect, so I did my dissertation on 43 of the early synagogues of Johannesburg and the Reef.

“It took me four years, trawling through archives and discovering places that had been forgotten. It was remarkable. There are copies of my dissertation at Hebrew University, Beit Hatfutsot, and I gave one to each of my children. I’m very proud of that accomplishment.”

The last surviving member of her immediate family, Norwich spends much of her time alone these days, but has devoted herself to penning her life story.

“My husband passed away 25 years ago,” she says. “I’ve been lonely, but I can’t sit around and do nothing. I may be a little more tired than I used to, but I can still see and hear. I need to keep busy.

“I’ve learned first-hand that when push comes to shove, you need other people in your life. You can’t do it alone. You have to put your foot in the water to get going, be open to all sorts of things, and go out there to see what’s what.”

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Habonim honours Anstey, a ‘superman without a cape’

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The outgoing manhig (leader) of South African Habonim Dror, Errol Anstey, took his departure from the youth movement after 20 years of service in an online Zoom call with nearly 300 current and former members, friends, and family.

“I agreed to take the job for a year or two back in 2000, and never dreamt it would end up being 20 years of challenging but hugely satisfying work,” Anstey said in an emotional speech to his audience from around the world.

In the late 1990s, the movement had dropped in numbers, finances were in a mess, and the well-known Onrust campsite was in bad shape, former shaliach Ronen Segall recalled. “Errol was the obvious choice for someone with deep knowledge of the movement, its workings, and its campsite. In my eyes, Errol became Habonim’s true hero, a superman without a cape but full of capability.”

In a short space of time, Anstey led a significant turnaround for Habonim along with the team of shlichim and Habonim leadership. His fundraising, finance, and administration skills shone, and over his term as manhig an estimated R20 million has been raised and invested in the Onrust campsite to make it one of the most sought-after and valuable campsites in South Africa.

“This has enabled the movement not only to maintain the site to a high level, but the revenue has helped finance many of the movement’s activities,” Anstey proudly told his audience.

The traditional role of the manhig since the founding of SA Habonim Dror was always to be the “adult in the room” to act as a guide and mentor to the movement’s young leadership. Former mazkira klalit (general secretary) of Habonim from 2005, Micaela Browde, paid tribute to Anstey saying, “You were really a stalwart for us, you fought for us, you had our backs, you made sure we were supported, guided, and you did so with strength, humility, and humour.”

Anstey described some of the challenges during his stint including differences of opinion and sometimes open confrontation with mainstream Jewish community leadership when Habonim was critical of some of Israel’s actions. “It wasn’t easy to be a lone voice for progressive, liberal thinking as South Africa’s community became predominantly conservative,” he said with his usual frankness.

Another mazkir klali, Daniel Sussman from 2019, described Anstey’s catch phrase as “do everything, all the time, never sleep”. This succinctly summed up for him the endless number of projects and activities which Anstey led over the past two decades on behalf of Habonim.

Stanley Bergman, originally from Port Elizabeth and now in New York, the national treasurer for Habonim in 1968, paid tribute to Anstey’s enormous efforts to support several generations of Habonim members. He praised him for his ability to connect with graduates from the movement around the world and develop a donor community to support the Habonim Foundation which he initiated.

Anstey spoke of the erratic provision of Habonim shlichim from Israel over the years, and how he had additionally become a shaliach himself, which meant mentoring the leadership and members of the movement. He emphasised that he had “the privilege of working with the cream of South African Jewish youth” and said “there was nothing more fulfilling than working with inspired youth”. Their activism had motivated him to run successfully for public office in 2011 as a member of the Democratic Alliance.

During the Zoom session, many participants showered praise on Anstey’s term as manhig including Isaac Herzog, the chairperson of the Jewish Agency for Israel, who acknowledged the “outstanding contribution” that he had made to Habonim over so many years.

Former mazkir klali in the early 1980s, Stephen Pincus, expressed his appreciation for Anstey’s earlier roles as camp organiser at one of the largest Onrust camps ever, and later in spearheading the 50th anniversary celebrations of the movement.

“It was clear from those early years that Errol had that obvious aptitude for organisation along with a commitment to the movement,” he said. “Little did we know that we unleashed a formidable force which reverberated in the movement for more than 40 years.”

Anstey told the audience that his two children, Saul and Talia, had followed in his footsteps, having attended 12 Onrust camps and later became his “eyes on the ground” regarding movement dynamics. He also noted that it was probably an unprecedented situation that they had actually left the movement before their father did.

Anstey warmly welcomed the new incoming manhig, Wayne Sussman, in his usual modest style saying how satisfying it was for him to hand over the mantle to “someone who will be better than me and will take Habonim to new heights”.

Sussman responded in the session with his usual passionate style, describing the six previous manhigim who preceded him as “giants on whose shoulders we stand”. He lamented the fact that the Habonim leadership was on a Zoom call and not at the annual Onrust camp, and how challenging it was going to be in 2021 without the lessons learned and experiences from machaneh.

“Our first task will be to assist the 2021 bogrim led by the new mazkir, Aaron Sher, to capture some of the magic which will be lost, but I’m confident we can do it,” said Sussman.

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JNF Blue Box enters the digital age

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When is a Jewish National Fund (JNF) Blue Box not a blue box? Never. Even though the physical box now has a digital donation option, it’s still the age-old Blue Box.

This box has for decades symbolised the JNF and the commitment of Jewish people around the world to rebuild Israel.

And for decades, it has been filled to the brim with pennies, cents, nickels, dimes, lira, and francs – coins of every denomination dropped in, one could almost say, religiously every Friday evening before Shabbat candle lighting.

Now it’s no longer limited to physical coins and a metal box. The new Blue Box with a digital donation option via SnapScan will be launched in time for Channukah to keep the tradition of the Blue Box alive for the next 120 years.

The first real Blue Box was, oddly enough, Theodor Herzl’s hat. At the Fifth Zionist Congress in 1901, he used his hat to solicit donations from delegates as a means of purchasing land to establish a Jewish homeland.

Soon after, a Polish bank clerk proposed that a collection box bearing the words “National Fund” be placed in every Jewish home to raise money for land purchases. Production began in Vienna. The boxes were initially produced in a blue material and thus became known as Blue Boxes.

Over the past 120 years, funds collected via the Blue Box from around the world have assisted the JNF to realise its aim of developing land in Israel: building roads and water reservoirs, establishing parks, and preparing the soil for agriculture and settlement. Beyond fundraising, the Blue Box is also an important educational tool for spreading the Zionist message and renewing the historic bond between the Jewish people and EretzYisrael.

Stories about the Blue Box have become legendary. In the United States around Tu B’Shvat, teams of children brandishing JNF Blue Boxes would travel from Brooklyn to Manhattan on the New York City subway system. They would move from train car to train car with these ubiquitous boxes in hand, soliciting contributions from passengers and stopping only when they sensed or saw the approach of policemen.

In South Africa, members of the JNF would visit Jewish homes every Sunday to collect and then empty Blue Boxes, diligently counting the hundreds or thousands of coins inside them. In addition to being proudly displayed in almost every South African Jewish home, Blue Boxes were also present in schools, shuls, Jewish-owned businesses, medical waiting rooms, even hairdressing salons.

In times past when life wasn’t so frenetic and women could spend afternoons playing rummy and socialising, the money raised and won during the games was often dropped into the Blue Box, adding to the largesse and reputation of that particular hostess.

Today the iconic Blue Box (or pushke) remains the link between the Jewish people and the land, and to many, perhaps even to the majority of the Jewish world, it’s a symbol of Jewish continuity. They can also be quite valuable: a few antique Blue Boxes were auctioned by Sotheby’s recently, realising more than $3 000 (R46 006) each.

However, in the age of credit cards, cryptocurrency, and e-wallets, fundraising via a coin-based Blue Box risks becoming an anachronism.

So, the JNF has relaunched the Blue Box and linked it to the SnapScan mobile-payments app. A QR code will be found on all new Blue Boxes purchased from the JNF. People with old boxes can bring them in to have the QR code imprinted for no extra charge.

It’s modern technology indeed, but inextricably linked to a century-old tradition of keeping Israel alive in every Jewish heart.

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